March 27, 2014

Food trucks could be a reality this summer in Horry County

Mobile food trucks could be a reality this summer in Horry County, and the chairman of the ad hoc committee looking at the issue would like to see it start this year.

Mobile food trucks could be a reality this summer in Horry County, and the chairman of the ad hoc committee looking at the issue would like to see it start this year.

Steven Neeves, a member of the Horry County Planning Commission and chairman of the committee assigned to look at the viability and potential rules around food trucks, said Thursday he would like the process to be done right rather than set a deadline for completion.

“We want to do it right and we have a lot of information to go through,” Neeves said at the committee’s first meeting Thursday. “I think once we get through it next month, and then the following month go through a public hearing, then we may have something to start actually in another month after that.”

Neeves was referring to an April 24 meeting where the committee will discuss ideas for the details of the program, including the various mobile vending types, the locations where they will be allowed, signage allowed, conduct expected and the permitting required for the program. From that meeting, the committee is expected to set a public hearing to allow members of the public to discuss concerns. It then would go to the county’s infrastructure and regulation committee before it would be considered by the full council.

“The goal here at the beginning is just to do it right from the beginning so we don’t have to deal with changes down the way,” Neeves said. “I would love to have something this season. I don’t think we need to make a Fourth of July deadline, but I would love to see something before the end of the season so people could start making plans for next season.”

Plenty of work has already gone into this project, including surveys of the public and examination of best practices in other communities. The council’s infrastructure and regulation committee has already supported the idea of a one-year pilot program to see how it would work.

The county’s planning department has surveyed the public online and has had a public meeting on the issue already. Of the more than 540 people who have taken the survey, 94 percent favor food trucks, according to Mary Catherine Cecil, senior planner with the county. She said some of the survey respondents did not want to see the trucks in residential areas and did not want to see them too close to established businesses that sell food.

Some concerns arose about the cost of the permit to make sure those who get special event permits, like the ones purchased for the county’s bike weeks, were different than the ones the county is considering for mobile food vendors.

“Why don’t we limit the bike week permits to just that period, and then the problem is solved,” said Danny Hardee of the ad hoc committee.

Michael Mitchell, one of two members of the public at the committee meeting, asked whether the county planned to have a limited number of licenses available and Carol Coleman, deputy director of planning and zoning for the county, said that issue is still up in the air.

“That probably would be something that was up for discussion because the current regulations for food carts limits the number given in each district,” Coleman said.

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