A high price for being mobile

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The Noblesville Common Council narrowly approved an ordinance allowing food trucks in the city by a 4-3 vote; however, the cost for the permits will likely prevent residents from seeing many mobile vendors on city streets.

Prior to the vote, Council Member Rick Taylor expressed concern over the food truck permit costs being “too low.” He moved to raise the cost to $1,000 – which was agreed to by fellow members Jeff Zeckel, Mark Boice and Council President Roy Johnson.

“In Noblesville, I want it to be known that brick and mortar businesses paying taxes here that we’ve got your back. That does not mean welcoming food trucks in,” Zeckel said.

Johnson said the higher price means those that seek permits will have a vested interest in the community and will make an effort in Noblesville.

“We have local franchises paying taxes and rent. Do we want to encourage food trucks to come in and potentially put any of those businesses out of business?,” he said. “I don’t think we’re heavily taxing them.”

Council Member Greg O’Connor, who opposed the increase with fellow members Steve Wood and Brian Ayer, said the price raise would not give food trucks an opportunity to prove themselves as a viable option.

“We’re not going to get anybody to come here,” he warned his peers. “If you’re going to do it, have a fee at a reasonable level. It’s not like its cast in stone and forever. We’ll price ourselves right out of the market.”

Wood agreed that “the fee of $200 is adequate” and said he doesn’t believe residents would see trucks on a daily basis but on certain weekends.

“It’s good competition and if they come and are successful here, they may open businesses here. I see positives and negatives on both sides,” he said.

Mayor John Ditslear said he was “surprised it went from $200 to $1,000.”

“It’s probably a little high. I hope someone takes the chance and comes,” he said. “If it’s too high we won’t get any. It’d be a nice addition to what we offer residents.”

Kari Nickander owns Taco Lassi and Pho Mi food trucks with her husband, Adam Perry.

“I feel like we’ve (food trucks) become an important part of some communities in Indianapolis. There’s a wide range of things we have been a part of and we’d like to be a part of that in Noblesville,” the Cicero resident said.

Nickander, who said it costs $50,000 to $75,000 to setup a cheap food truck, told the council that a price above $200 would drive away potential vendors.

“If you go much higher than that you aren’t going to get too many food trucks in Noblesville,” she said. “It’ll only be people that care about Noblesville. You’re not going to get any food trucks to come here because of the population.”

Noblesville Planning Director Christy Langley said the originally proposed fee of $200 was based on time and effort to process permits and amount to enforce compliance. Compared to six other cities of similar demographics, size and social economic makeup of Noblesville, Langley said half don’t allow food trucks and the other half charges $200, $275 and $313 for permits. Fishers charges $200 and it costs $500 in Indianapolis, which has the highest population.

“It gives me anxiety on what we’re closing the door on,” Langley said.

Owners who pay the fee still face restrictions on where food trucks can be parked, including bans in the downtown zoning district, residential areas or within 1,000 feet of special events and the Noblesville Farmer’s Market.

Langley said the food trucks ordinances do not apply to ice cream trucks or farm stands, which fall under other guidelines and laws.


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