Lexington food trucks pilot program to go before council for first reading

bfortune@herald-leader.comMay 21, 2013 

Lexington's Urban County Council spent two hours on Tuesday discussing details about a proposed six-month pilot program to create five food truck zones downtown.

The discussion covered everything from where and when the trucks can set up on the street to who would enforce the rules, and how. Council members at Tuesday's work session eventually voted to send the pilot project to Thursday night's council meeting for a first reading.

Under the proposal, food trucks would be allowed to set up in five zones that have metered parking spaces. Trucks could park there for two hours between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. As long as they are in line with other zoning regulations, the food trucks could operate downtown — or anywhere in Fayette County — between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m.

The trucks cannot be within 100 feet of the entrance to a business establishment during its regular hours of operation, or within 100 feet of a residential area.

Moments after the start of Tuesday's meeting, some council members asked for some of the zones to be changed or eliminated. Councilman Steve Kay asked that South Limestone between Main and Vine be removed from the list because of limited on-street parking, and because it put the trucks too close to businesses, including several restaurants.

Kay said Bill Owen, president of the Lexington Center Corporation, had requested that food trucks be banned from an area around Rupp Arena because they would compete with food vendors inside the Lexington Center.

Chris Ford pointed out that all metered spaces on Elm Tree Lane between Corral and East 4th Street, near the Lyric Theatre, were within 100 feet of residential areas. He wanted that zone removed.

Harry Clark reminded fellow council members that the project was only a six-month pilot. "We have to have enough spaces to prove food trucks have viability," he said. If zones are removed, "There would not be enough left to make any sense."

Julian Beard said he did not see how food trucks on South Limestone would hurt downtown restaurant business. Besides, Beard added, competition is part of the American way of doing business.

Council eliminated Elm Street Lane as a zone, but added two blocks nearby on Corral Street between Spruce and Martin Luther King Boulevard.

Another concern was who would enforce the two-hour parking limit — Lexington police or the Lexington Parking Authority, the agency responsible for the city's parking meters.

James Frazier III, board member of the parking authority, said the agency would enforce parking until 5 p.m., and enforcement would be complaint driven. The parking authority wants some discretion in enforcing parking decisions because the food truck program is new and they aren't sure how it will work.

The food truck project would be evaluated in October, Councilwoman Shevawn Akers said, using information such as the number of police citations issued, parking authority citations and the volume of business by food trucks.

Sean Tibbetts, director of the Bluegrass Food Truck Association, said earlier that many of the food truck operators are concerned that the ordinance is too restrictive for them to be able to operate.

"The longer the process has gone on, the more restrictive the process has gotten," he said. The first food truck task force was set up two years ago.

The food truck association currently has about a dozen members, many of whom have more than one truck.

He said the ordinance would require the trucks to open for business immediately upon parking, but it takes 20 minutes for his griddle to even warm up. "We just don't see how we can actually make it work," he said.

Herald-Leader reporter Karla Ward contributed to this article. Beverly Fortune: (859) 231-3251. Twitter: @BFortune2010

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