Ordinance to restrict mobile businesses

The Daily Herald  |   Columbia TN

Columbia City Council adopted its first mobile vending ordinance last week, but not everyone is happy with what that could mean for local food truck vendors.

With the rise of the food truck industry over the past few years, the city needed to acknowledge the market in Columbia, and what regulations should be put in place. The hard part was figuring out exactly what that means, and if adopting an ordinance would be detrimental to the business market.

The council and Columbia Planning Commission have spent more than half a year narrowing down every detail of the ordinance, which some members like councilman Mike Greene have said made the whole process “convoluted and confusing.”

At Thursday’s regular meeting, the council initially voted 5-2 to deny the ordinance, but immediately voted to revisit the item after a brief discussion on why the item needed to pass. The second vote was 6-1 in favor, with councilman Mark King the sole opposing vote.

A few local food industry business owners spoke to the council during last week’s meeting, urging them to reconsider some parts of the ordinance, such as food trucks only being allowed on city property four days a week, size requirements for trucks and what types of food can be sold. Vendors will also have to pay a $50 annual permit fee to operate within Columbia’s central business district.

Paul Keltner, Columbia’s director of Development Services, outlined the ordinance, saying the intent of certain restrictions was to avoid competition with brick and mortar restaurants, who have more restrictions than temporary vendors. He said also that mobile vending isn’t just food trucks, but other types of temporary vendors like produce stands.

“The goal of this was to create some separation between the two, since one is a temporary use and one is a permanent use,” Keltner said. “A permanent building has many more restrictions than the temporary one we’re looking at now.”

The ordinance currently states food trucks cannot sell similar food items if adjacent to brick-and-mortar restaurants. For example, a food truck cannot sell hamburgers if posted up next to restaurants like Jumbo House Burgers or Bypass Deli.

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