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New regulations for lunch carts possible in Amherst

Select Board Chairwoman Stephanie O’Keeffe said Friday she is beginning the process of crafting updated regulations that would continue to promote the new food options for downtown while ensuring other restaurants don’t suffer as a result.

“We’re trying to find the right balance of location and timing,” O’Keeffe said. “The goal is to not have essentially permanent restaurants operating out of parking spaces.”

O’Keeffe said it is the mobility of food carts that makes them interesting and creates vitality for the community.

She isn’t sure when the new rules might be ready, but the Select Board could see her preliminary ideas in December.

“My plan is to draft some regulations and get feedback on them from the business community, inspections folks and enforcement folks, and see if these are practical and workable,” O’Keeffe said.

The attempt to place limits on food carts comes out of a recent meeting O’Keeffe had with Tony Maroulis, executive director of the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce, and Alex Krogh-Grabbe, executive director of the Amherst Business Improvement District.

Three carts are operating regularly, with New York Halal Food always set up the sidewalk at the corner of Kellogg Avenue and North Pleasant Street; Paris & Ty’s usually on South Pleasant Street next to the Town Common; and Bite Me Please in the vicinity of weekly farmers markets.

Now, the operators must pay a $125 fee for a “mobile food service permit” from the town’s health department, $100 for a Select Board “lunch cart license” and obtain a state hawker and peddler’s license. In their applications, they have to specify locations and times of operations.

Maroulis said the meeting with O’Keeffe went well.

“I would say the conversations we had were really productive,” Maroulis said. He said she was receptive to the idea of creating “buffer zones” that would help protect the restaurants.

“You can’t have food carts directly in front of a restaurant,” Maroulis said. “From a fairness standpoint, that seems unacceptable.”

Maroulis said one idea would be to locate carts near green spaces and commons within the downtown, such as the east side of the Town Common, the west side of Kendrick Park and the north side of Sweetser Park.

Maroulis said activity should be increased in those areas outside of big events, and the food carts could be a means of achieving that.

Meanwhile, Paris Valley, who runs Paris & Ty’s, requested that the town allow her to bag meters so she can be set up in on-street parking spaces for four hours and not have to move her operation after two hours. O’Keeffe said her board has taken no action on this request.

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