A food truck court could possibly be coming to a west Carrollton church’s parking lot.
But one food truck operator said the court might be a “hard sell” to city council members and other food truck owners who would need to pay permit fees to set up in the church’s parking lot.
The city’s Planning Commission unanimously recommended approval of the permit, and the city council will decide on the proposal during their meeting on June 8.
Curtis Wilson, a Carrollton resident who works for ESPN and the Guy Time Travel transportation service, is requesting a special use permit to locate a food truck court in the parking lot of Moore’s Chapel United Methodist Church, 136 N. Park Street.
Within this court will be Wilson’s mobile food unit and other food trucks for community fundraising projects for the church and other community organizations.
The court’s secondary purpose will be to “provide the community’s disadvantaged youth with entrepreneurial training, exposure and opportunities,” according to a March 12 memo provided by Wilson to Carrollton city officials.
The parking lot for the church is less than a half-acre, contains 20 spaces and is located at the intersection of Henry Street and N. Park Street near Adamson Square. But city officials said because the proposed court is close to downtown, the activity may compete with the existing restaurants located around the Square.
While Wilson did not provide hours of operation for the court, the city’s ordinance limits the hours to 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. He has the support of Moore’s Chapel United Methodist Church, but the food truck court is not going to be operated by the ministry.
Food trucks and food truck courts are currently only permitted in the M-1 and M-2 zoning districts, which are the industrial zoning districts, where such places such as Printer’s Ale are located.
But a resident can set up a food truck court in the commercial and office districts of the city, C-2, C-3, O-I, and R-O-I, with a special use permit approved by the city’s mayor and council, according to the ordinance.
There are no new permanent structures proposed with Wilson’s request, and the property is currently zoned C-2, which is the general commercial zoning district.
However, there are regulations that apply to all food trucks, regardless of its location. For example, food truck owners must apply for a zoning permit for not just their food truck, but each individual site the operator wishes to park his vehicle.
Last week, two food truck owners said city ordinances are too restrictive on their operations. Husband and wife Sam and Jennifer Ly own the Blue Nomad Grill, a food truck that serves unique food for on-the-go patrons.
There is a $150 zoning permit, and Carrollton Community Development Director Erica Studdard said in a written statement on Friday that the ordinance was established in 2018 as a response to issues city officials were having with food vendors in parking lots.
“The $150 zoning permit is in place in lieu of food trucks paying an occupational tax to the city like a traditional restaurant because they are mobile in nature, making it difficult to track revenue within the city and they don’t have a permanent location,” said the written statement.
The special use permit, according to the Ly’s, has a two-to-three-month approval process, and a $250 non-refundable application per location they wish to serve at.
If the special use permit is approved, there is a $150 per fee per location every year. For permits in the industrial area, there is only a $150 fee per location every year.
Jennifer said on Thursday that Wilson is a neighbor and he came to talk to the Ly’s about opening the food truck court. The Ly’s explained the process of applying for the special use permit and the permit fees, but she said the idea may not come to fruition.
“I’m surprised the city would even consider it,” Jennifer said. “I wish him the best of luck. I just think it’s going to be a hard sell, and I would be surprised if it even passes for that area. I just hope that the city embraces it because food trucks are not going to go away.”
Wilson said, after he was made aware of the fees and application process, he was not discouraged by the city’s requirements.
“It’s a hurdle, but at the same time it’s the cost of doing business and it’s also seeing the bigger picture,” he said. “I think we can win. People talk about seeing the forest for the trees. You see the obstacles, but my thing was, ‘how do we bring the trucks together?’ ”
“I think it can turn into almost like an incubator,” he said. “It’s in the community and it’s an opportunity. I think it becomes a win-win for everybody: the community, the entrepreneur, the disadvantaged, and also the city.”