City changes ordinance about food trucks

Existing fees have been cut in half

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In March, the Sparta Board of Mayor and Aldermen tabled a discussion about changes to food truck regulations inside the city limits, and, at the April 1 meeting, they revisited the discussion and voted to approve a new ordinance designed to make it easier for vendors to visit Sparta.

“I took all of the existing fees and cut them in half,” city administrator Brad Hennessee said. “We had a suggestion to offer a one-time single event permit but limit the number of those to two per calendar year - to incentivize those that maybe haven’t been to Sparta before to maybe give it a try.”

He said the fee structure would possibly persuade them to purchase a longer-term permit and return to Sparta.

The new fee structure, proposed by Hennessee is as follows:

  • One-day permit (limit 2 per calendar year) at $25
  • 30-day permit at $50
  • Six-month permit at $150
  • 12-month permit at $350

Mayor Jeff Young asked Hennessee how the suggested fees compared to neighboring cities and counties that also allow food vendors via permit.

“All the cities that have ordinances that pertain to mobile food vendors have different situations,” Hennessee said. “We found something that we feel like does make us more competitive. The single event permit actually - I don’t know if anyone else is doing that. It just came as a suggestion, and, the more I looked into it, the better it looked. It does give somebody the chance to see if [setting up in Sparta as a mobile food vendor] is for them.”

Alderman Jerry Lowery responded to Hennessee’s suggestion asking what the reasoning behind limiting the daily permits to two per calendar year per vendor.

“Why not let them buy 10 if that’s what they want?” he asked. “I get that the money is better for them to buy a [longer] permit, but if the timing isn’t right and they want to get three, why not let them?”

Vice Mayor Jim Floyd responded to Lowery’s questioning, “What I get from limiting it to two is that it gives different vendors an opportunity to come. As I understood from the ladies that were here last time, they want different vendors every month.”

Floyd was referencing Amanda Dunsmore speaking during the March 18 meeting in which she addressed the board about the Sparta Green Market, which prompted the board to ask Hennessee to look into the mobile food vendor permit situation within the city.

Hennessee also responded to Lowery who said he wasn’t against the actual fee schedule but rather curious as to the reasoning behind the limit.

“We can change the number; it doesn’t have to be two,” Hennessee said, adding that he found a similar ordinance in Knoxville, and they had a limit of two so that is what he used as a starting point. “I’m not for or against the limit.”

However, Young told the board that he felt the limit would be a fair addition to the ordinance.

“This will allow others the chance to come,” he said, and reminded the board of the discussion in March from the Green Market event organizers. “If event is only wanting one or two [vendors] each month, this will allow a variety of them to visit Sparta. We only have so much space, and this would keep one from monopolizing [the space].”

The board unanimously approved the ordinance amending the fee schedule, although Lowery said that he was voting “hesitantly yes.”

Dunsmore, who was present again, spoke to the board and expressed her gratitude for their support and decision at the end of the meeting.

“I just wanted to extend my gratitude to the board and Mr. Hennessee and the city attorney (Lynn Omohundro) for the prompt attention to the food truck issue,” Dunsmore said. “I think we have come to a good solution. I am looking forward to a good season. The first Green Market is May 21, from 4 to 7. I hope you all come out.”  

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