djr-2018-10-22-news-food-truckp1

Curt McLellan, owner/operator of the Local Mobile food truck in Tupelo, puts his gloves on as he prepares to cut tomatoes prior to lunch time at Ballard Park in Tupelo. It’s one of the best food trucks in the state, according to Mississippi Magazine readers.

TUPELO Food truck vendors appear largely satisfied with the first peek at an ordinance that could regulate them.

At Tupelo City Hall Monday, Mayor Jason Shelton’s administration released the first copies of a draft mobile vendor ordinance prepared at the request of the City Council.

The draft ordinance failed to include certain proposals that proved controversial during earlier discussions, including a ban on operating within a given distance of brick-and-mortar restaurants and a ban from parking alongside streets considered major thoroughfares.

“We have not been protectionist and made any distance requirements between competing business,” city attorney Ben Logan said during Monday’s work session.

With many food truckers owner present at Monday’s discussion, a question and answer session allowed by city leaders was muted. Most questions sought to clarify certain points, and no major objections were lodged to the ordinance.

Curt McLellan opened Tupelo’s first food truck in 2013 and has been a vocal voice for that business community.

He told the Daily Journal he had no objections to the ordinance draft, as presented Monday.

“I think it’s all doable,” McLellan said. “We’re already doing everything on here anyway, so it’s not going to change our day-to-day operations, as far as I can tell.”

He did reiterate that he opposes any effort on the city’s part to hamper food trucks from parking downtown along Main Street. This would have been the practical impact of the major thoroughfare parking ban.

However, Ward 6 Councilman Mike Bryan lobbied to include some kind of protections for brick-and-mortar restaurants, or to go further and ban the food trucks from parking alongside city streets designated as major thoroughfares.

Ward 5 Councilman Buddy Palmer told the Daily Journal he also supports such a ban.

However, during Monday’s meeting, there was no discernible push by a council majority to revive these controversial prohibitions.

Mayor Jason Shelton did repeat his opposition to a food truck ordinance, even the relatively restrained one his administration his drafted.

“I want to be pro-business,” Shelton said. “I don’t think we need more restrictions on businesses. I think we need to look at restrictions to take away.”

Major provisions of the ordinance as currently drafted include the following:

• Food truck operators already must have a city of Tupelo business privilege license, but in addition would now be required to obtain a mobile vending permit.

• To get the mobile vendor permits, applicants would have to show that they are in compliance with relevant rules regarding sales tax collection and with Health Department requirements. They would also have to show proof of relevant insurance policies, as well as related requirements. The cost of the mobile vendor permit has yet been determined.

• Food trucks may only park on public property or within the public right of way within marked parking space.

• Some limitations on parking would be imposed for safety purposes. For example, food trucks would not be allowed to park where they block intersections, the view of traffic or the entrance or exit of a building.

• Parking at public parks or in the parking lot of a public park would be banned without the permission of the relevant government entity, such as the Parks and Recreation Department,

• If parked alongside a street, food trucks may only vend food from the side of the truck facing the opposite direction of the street.

• The city’s various food trucks could only park on private property with written permission from the owner.

• Some restrictions on food track activity would be imposed based on zoning, with food trucks only allowed to park on the right of way within commercially zoned areas.

caleb.bedillion@journalinc.com Twitter: @CalebBedillion

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