City Commission set to make it easier for food trucks to open in Lawrence
The food truck craze that has produced walking tacos on one corner, Philly cheesesteaks on another, and who-knows-what culinary creations in between, may be ready to come to Lawrence.
City commissioners at their Tuesday evening meeting are set to consider new regulations that would make it easier for food trucks to operate in the city. After the commission was divided on the issue last month, Mayor Mike Amyx said he’s now seen enough from the industry that he’s comfortable moving forward with the new regulations.
“I had a concern that we don’t see a large number of these food trucks all in one area, but I think we can figure out how to make this work,” Amyx said. “It seems like it is a popular way of doing business.”
Last month, some commissioners had expressed concerns that food trucks may unfairly compete with traditional brick-and-mortar restaurants that typically have higher operating costs.
“I do worry about the guy who works hard to establish a restaurant, and then a food truck pulls up beside you and starts poaching your customers,” said City Commissioner Bob Schumm, who is a retired restaurant owner. “I don’t think that is fair, but hopefully that won’t happen often.”
The new regulations would lift a three-hour limit on how long a food truck can operate at any one location in the city. The new regulations would allow food trucks to operate an unlimited number of hours on private property, as long as the food truck and the property’s owner have received the necessary site plan approvals from City Hall. That will include factors such as ensuring there is adequate parking and that the trucks don’t interfere with traffic or other such safety issues.
The new regulations potentially will allow for food trucks to set up in any commercially zoned piece of property that has some excess parking. Food trucks, however, won’t be able to operate in publicly owned parking lots, such as the host of city-owned lots in the downtown area. The latest version of the regulations also includes new rules to ensure the trucks are properly maintained and don’t become an eyesore.
The regulations may open the door for a “food truck garden” to develop in the Warehouse Arts District in East Lawrence. Tom Larkin, an executive with the group developing the district, said his company wants to create a parking area for multiple food trucks at the southwest corner of Eighth and Pennsylvania streets.
Commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall.