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Columbus plans new laws regulating food trucks

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio's capital city plans to serve up new regulations for food truck owners.

Complaints and questions about how they should operate have been boiling over in recent months as the number of food trucks have grown to an estimated 150 around the city.

City officials met recently with food truck operators, neighborhood leaders and restaurant owners to hear their concerns.

"We want to be welcoming to food trucks, and we will do everything we can to help them grow, but we must also protect the public in doing so," said Councilwoman Michelle M. Mills.

Complaints center on where the trucks can park, sales taxes and trash left behind by customers, The Columbus Dispatch reported.

Food-truck owners think the city's laws are outdated and do not address their businesses.

"The restaurant owners voiced concern about having a level playing field, but the playing field isn't level," said Brian Reed, president of the newly formed Central Ohio Food Truck Association. "We are at the mercy of the weather, and people go to restaurants because they want to sit down in a nice atmosphere and be served, and they don't come to us for that."

One unresolved issue is how long trucks are allowed to park at meters.

City code says vendors can sell from a metered spot for 15 minutes unless the city gives permission for longer periods. Food-truck owners would like to see that changed.

"We don't think it's unreasonable to do our business where there are parking meters as long as we aren't out in front of a restaurant that doesn't want us there," Reed said.

Restaurant owners told city officials that food trucks should be taxed on sales just like restaurants. But the food-truck owners argued that that they serve takeout food, which isn't covered by a sales tax.

Neighborhood leaders in an area near downtown and Ohio State University are upset by the trash customers leave behind.

"We have an opportunity to get this right in Columbus where other cities have gotten a few things right and a few things wrong when it comes to regulating food trucks," said food truck owner Daniel McCarthy. "We want to comply with the law, and the city has admitted that their laws are antiquated and need to be modernized, so that's where we go from here."

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