When they meet on Tuesday, Oct. 6, members of the Swansboro Planning Board will consider a request to allow food trucks in Swansboro. For the third time.
Currently, food trucks are only allowed under special conditions. (See related article.) Elizabeth Shepard, owner of the food truck Urban Street Eats, is asking for the rules to be relaxed.
On the other side of the issue is Randy Swanson, the owner of the food truck Little John’s, as well as the Boro Restaurant and Icehouse Waterfront Restaurant, which was badly damaged during Hurricane Florence and is in the process of being rebuilt.
Twice this year the planning board has considered the request to allow food trucks and both times the board, which acts in an advisory capacity to the town commissioners, has voted to recommend the request be denied.
Shepard is asking that food truck vendors be added to the UDO’s list of permitted uses. She first spoke to the Swansboro Planning Board at its May meeting.
At that time, Shepard pointed out that pushcarts and ice cream trucks are allowed in town and she suggested food trucks should be considered as well.
Questioned by the planning board members, Shepard said a food truck offers fare at various locations, but only by invitation.
Reluctant give up on allowing food trucks as a permitted use, Swansboro commissioners suggested setting certain limits and making changes in the fee schedule. Specifically:
• Remove the allowance for food vendors in the B-2HDO zoning district.
• Require a time limit for vendors to include a maximum duration per site and total allowance per year.
• Increase the fees proposed.
Jennifer Ansell, town planner, has suggested the trucks be allowed in any one location for up to three consecutive days, with a minimum of seven business days in between the same location and be allowed a total of 100 days in a calendar year.
She suggested the cost of an annual permit be $400.
These suggestions went back to the planning board, to no avail. The planners again voted to recommend denial.
In its deliberations, the planning board has cited two primary reasons for recommending denial. One is the planners believe the food trucks would have an unfair advantage over the town’s “brick-and-mortar” restaurants. The other reason is that they don’t believe food trucks fit within the town’s future development plans.
In comments to the board at different times, Swanson – who has insisted that he is a supporter of allowing food trucks to operate when and where allowed, but with forethought – has said the high concentration of restaurants in Swansboro make it unique, and not as suitable a site for food trucks as a permitted use, particularly when compared to nearby communities such as Hubert and Cedar Point where food trucks could flourish because there is a lack of eateries.
Swanson also agrees with the planning board when it comes to the town’s goals in planning.
“There are so many people that were asked to be on committees over the past 15 years that researched and devoted their time on the planning, the branding and future look of Swansboro beginning from the west-end corridor to the bridges,” he said in an email. “Outside experts were even brought in to assist some of the committees. The previous elected officials and the citizens have an incredible amount of time vested and invested in long-term planning and what the town should look like in the best interest of the future and even 20-year growth expectations.
“Sometimes new elected officials, to no fault of their own, are unaware of the visionary work these previous commissions provided.”
Allowing food trucks, without forethought that first prioritizes future community continuity, according to Swanson, is “short-sighted … and about instant gratification and not longevity of this town and community.”
Swanson said he would support a food truck rally on the first Friday of the month, for example. “Festivals, also great, but to allow food trucks anyplace, anytime, anywhere, ‘for a fee or not’, I say ‘No.’ No fee charged would justify it, frankly, if a food truck is reputable and a mile away … would you drive the mile? Surely you would, Cedar Point and Hubert are not but a mile, I am convinced food trucks would be an asset and could be a component of growth in those communities. As a food truck owner, I feel they will not add quality to Swansboro in the approach that was presented.”
At its meeting on Sept. 9, which had been postponed from Sept. 7 because of the Labor Day holiday, the panel elected a new chairman, replacing Ralph Kohlmann, who resigned following the August meeting.
Scott Chadwick was elected.
Also on Sept. 9, the board members voted unanimously to change the regular meeting day from the first Monday of the month to the first Tuesday of the month.
The change came at Chadwick’s suggestion.
Email Jimmy Williams at email@example.com.
For more on this story purchase a copy of the Sept. 30, 2020, Tideland News