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Food trucks must be given a chance to compete

Communities across the nation have figured out how to incorporate food trucks into the everyday fabric of living. But first in Buffalo and now in Amherst, the topic has become unnecessarily contentious.
Food trucks have been around for decades, but their resurgence in places like Portland, Ore., has upgraded the status of sidewalk dining to “cool.”

The lack of clear, comprehensive and inclusive laws that allow food trucks and restaurants to thrive together gives young people – the group most likely to eat away from home – one more reason to move away.
Officials in both Amherst and Buffalo have been wrangling over how to regulate food trucks. It took lawmakers in Buffalo a while to figure things out, but now excessively burdensome regulations are being eased. Along the way, some restaurant owners have spoken in favor of the trucks because they see the additional activity the trucks bring.
Food truck owners who already pay $1,000 for a permit will be charged $500 to renew it. A restriction that trucks cannot operate within 100 feet of an open kitchen will be maintained and a requirement that the trucks pass a fire inspection, costing about $65, will be added to the ordinance. Food truck owners will continue to pay to participate in special events.

The Council will consider a measure to lower the $1,000 permit fee for new trucks to $800 at an upcoming meeting.
With Buffalo coming around on this trendy bit of free enterprise, Amherst should do the same. Instead, the Town Board considered a proposed food truck permit law that was amazingly burdensome. Food truck supporters presented a petition with 3,400 signatures in opposition to those rules, and the Town Board threw the proposal out.
Among the worst problems with the proposal: A one-hour limit at any one site for food trucks operating on public streets, tougher language on the required buffer with another eatery and restrictions on the hours the trucks can operate.

Now the Town Board has a chance to start over with an eye on how to foster competition between food trucks and brick-and-mortar restaurants. The trucks must adhere to health rules and reasonable regulations. But those regulations should not be designed to bar food trucks. Competition is good for consumers; it provides more choices and pushes restaurants and food trucks alike to provide better products.