Maryville City Council is still working on local food truck laws, and during a recent working session debating details of whether the popular wireless carriers are allowed to be in the neighborhood.
Much of the Maryville leadership’s food truck discussion has focused on allowing mobile grocery vendor parks – an Issue Council will vote on the permit in its second and final reading today, 2nd March.
During the council’s most recent working session, city administrator Greg McClain presented various ideas for regulating food trucks in residential areas.
The first was simple: don’t allow them at all and avoid the controversy. But neighborhoods enjoy trucks for events, McClain noted, and a permanent ban limits a dining option some Maryvillians crave.
A second option takes a page from Knoxville’s prescription book.
“Knoxville allows food trucks in a residential area, but only if organized by a homeowners association (HOA) or neighborhood group,” McClain said during the February 19th meeting.
That makes the process more democratic, he added, and allows people to choose whether or not to welcome food trucks by making their own hyper-local rules.
“The problem is,” he continued, “a lot of our neighborhoods don’t have an HOA.”
Maryville Mayor Andy Lawhorn added, “There’s a big difference between an HOA and a neighborhood association.”
The third option McClain introduced was allowing and regulating food trucks in individual homes, HOA or No. He again noted the pros and cons of this option, but pointed out that food trucks are unlikely to be placed on a public road may be.
“The great thing is that people can have trucks for parties, weddings and birthdays and it would be a great time,” McClain said, adding that people could take advantage of that fact.
“If you choose that option, we would have to develop: What are the options? What would cause us problems? ” he said.
McClain’s fourth option was to allow food trucks in unregulated residential areas and only monitor them when necessary.
James Volk, president of the College Hill Neighborhood Association, told councilors his community is no stranger to gatherings and is eager to have it beefed up with food trucks.
College Hill had a food truck at an event in the fall of 2020, which was banned. “We got involved,” said Volk. “I’ve apologized a couple of times, we won’t do it again,” he chuckled, adding that it was a great event.
Since then, people have come to public gatherings to discuss the viability of food trucks in residential areas.
“We look forward to this mechanism to keep our social group going,” said Volk.
The council members endorsed the regulation and discussed different approaches. Alderman Drew Miles asked how long and how often food trucks could be set up.
Councilor Sarah Herron asked if a potential code would cover other cellular companies and if an approval process could apply to this situation.
City councilor Fred Metz emphasized the importance of a “buy-in” for the community: the neighbors should have their say if someone nearby decides to host a food truck.
“We’re not doing this for a yard sale,” noted Councilor Tommy Hunt.
“It’s not the same intensity as a food truck,” said Metz.
“I disagree with you,” said Lawhorn, he and others laughed.
Maryville police chief Tony Crisp added that regulating neighborhood incidents is often tied to traffic control and calling from troubled neighbors.
McClain noted that this issue was noticed and agreed with Miles and others, who noted that regulation needs to be specific enough to address an important fact: local food trucks have huge social media followers and could attract large crowds, possibly from outside of the country Neighborhood.
In a world where socially distant events outside of COVID-19 are less likely to spread, council members agreed that the conversation should move towards regulation, and McClain said staff will soon start developing a certain language.
“There are a lot of things that we have to take into account when we open something across town, but I think we can come up with something that works for all neighborhoods,” said Lawhorn.
Follow @arjonesreports on Facebook and Twitter to learn more about city government reporter Andrew Jones.