Pilot food truck program in Maggie to be considered | News

MAGGIE VALLEY — The door has opened, even if just a crack, to allowing more food trucks in Maggie Valley.

After a lengthy discussion during an agenda-setting meeting Tuesday, the Maggie Valley governing board directed Planning Director Kaitland Finkle to come up with a pilot proposal allowing food trucks to secure a permit and operate on public land.

Several sites were mentioned as possibilities — one across from the Maggie Valley Festival Grounds and another at the red light near McCracken Corner, which is more in the geographic center of the community, but likely wouldn’t have as much traffic.

The details on the permit fee/process, possible locations and possible days/times for operating hours would be included in the proposal and then hammered out during the a future board meeting. The issue isn’t on the Sept. 14 agenda, but may come up for discussion.

During the agenda meeting, Finkle asked the board for a direction to proceed and outlined three options.

One was to draft a text amendment to the existing ordinance, something that would require a public hearing and likely take a couple months to complete. The second option was the pilot program on public land, which she said would be fairly easy and quickly, while the third option would be to stick with the status quo.

Existing guidelines allow business owners to sell whatever they market inside their operation outside the business, with exemptions for special events and nonprofit fundraisers.

The Maggie Valley Chamber of Commerce did a survey on food trucks in the town and a private Facebook page also queried residents on the possibility. Both showed widespread support for the idea.

Nicky Roberts, who started a Facebook page on expanding food trucks, cited the lively community discussion on the topic.

“It’s fair to say from that group, the majority of people want to see more dining options in Maggie Valley and more diversity, consistency and quality,” Roberts said.

Board member Tammy Wight said there are 24 dining options in Maggie Valley. Because of COVID and a labor shortage, however, many places aren’t open daily and during the winter, a number of the restaurants close.

Amber Keeney with Sippers in the Valley said food trucks would give the town an opportunity to have quick food option without having fast food chains. As a tourist town, Maggie needs a place to get a quick bite, she said.

“When people grab a bite to eat, they will go into shops,” Keeney said, arguing food trucks would satisfy that option for visitors and locals alike.

Board member Twinkle Patel, the chief executive officer of Milestone Hospitality, which has several lodging establishments in Maggie, said the first question guests ask when registering is for recommendations about the best places to eat. As it now stands, especially early in the week, the only option is to send them to Waynesville.

Alderman candidate Jeff Lee, who owns Fantasy Golf and Game Room, said his wife called restaurants on Labor Day to see what was open.

“There were two open and one closed early,” he said. “That creates a challenge when you try to present a good face to tourists to get them to come back. We sent everyone to the third traffic light to hang a right.”

Travis Bramlett with Valley Cigar and Wine, said when he found out there were few places to eat on Labor Day, he started cooking hot dogs for customers and ended up serving 200, some to folks who had never been in his store before, but just needed something to eat.

Mayor Mike Eveland, who isn’t a fan of opening the door to food trucks, argued that bricks and mortar establishments have a larger investment in the community.

“The more people that sell food, the less of a pie you get,” he said. “As a business, you want to get biggest part of that pie you can. That pie doesn’t get any bigger. A lot of small businesses go under during the winter. That happens a lot in Maggie Valley.”

Alderman Phillip Wight argued that if 200 people were sent to Waynesville in a day, the pie can be bigger by having an option to get a meal more quickly.

“We’re talking about a pilot program here,” Wight said.

Several board members asked how the pilot program would be converted to something more permanent.

Finkle said once towns establish parameters for the food truck operations, many revisit them later once they learn what works well and what doesn’t.

“A pilot program will still have conditions and standards,” she said.

Eveland said there needs to be an enforcement mechanism for the standards, something Finkle said would be easier on public land.

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