Chattanooga City Council looking at food truck rules

From left, Jake Stevens and Rowan Slinger work in the grilled cheese emergency! food truck at the Chattanooga Market on Sunday. The city council is considering new rules for food trucks on city property.

Chattanooga City Council members coming up with regulations for food trucks tinkered with the recipe a bit Tuesday.

Council members have been talking for months about accommodating the popular rolling kitchens while not harming brick-and-mortar restaurants. They got a first draft of an ordinance early in May and got an update at their agenda session from Blythe Bailey, director of the city transportation department.

Bailey and the city's legal department are looking at where food trucks could operate on city streets or public property, such as parks. Owners would have to get permits both to operate the trucks and to park on city streets to serve hungry customers.

Bailey showed council members a map of a proposed food truck zone in the heart of downtown.

Trucks with permits would be allowed to operate in an area bounded by M.L. King Boulevard and East 11th Street to the north and south and Market Street and Georgia Avenue to the west and east.

The trucks could operate in the surrounding area, between Market and Georgia at Eighth Street to Broad and Columbia at 11th, with permission from 75 percent of the adjacent property owners.

They could also set up at Youth and Family Development centers or in city parks, which caused some heartburn for Councilwoman Carol Berz.

Larger parks would be fine, she said, but people in her district who've created and maintain tiny pocket parks don't want noisy trucks idling in their neighborhoods, Berz said.

"It seems like people ought to have a say-so," she said.

There are two reasons for them not to worry.

For one, Bailey said, the proposed ordinance would specifically exclude trucks in residential zones.

And for another, said Economic and Community Development Director Donna Williams, the food truck owners are going to go to popular areas with bigger customer bases.

"If they don't have any customers, they're not coming back," Williams said.

Other council members had questions about trucks operating on private property or whether groups that raise money for causes with fish fries and the like might be affected by the rules.

City Attorney Wade Hinton said his office and Bailey would work over the proposed ordinance and bring it back for review in mid-July.

Contact taff writer Judy Walton at [email protected] or 423-757-6416.