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New food-truck regulations idling in face of restaurant concerns

"I don't think that it's fair that if you're selling pizza out of your truck, you can park in front of a pizza shop."



As spring approaches, Pittsburgh's food trucks are beginning to come out of hibernation. But a proposal to make it easier for them to operate is languishing in Pittsburgh City Council. 

The bill, introduced by City Councilor Bill Peduto last October, sought significant changes to the city's current rules. It eliminated prohibitions against parking in metered spots, or within 500 feet of a brick-and-mortar business selling similar fare. It also would have increased the time a truck could stay in one spot, from 30 minutes to four hours. 

But the measure died at the end of the year, and Peduto has not reintroduced the bill, because he doubts it has enough support on council. 

"It doesn't make sense to introduce a bill only to see it fail," says Peduto. The main sticking point, he surmises, is that his proposal could allow food trucks to operate next to brick-and-mortar restaurants offering similar cuisine. "Proximity is the major issue," he says.

Corey O'Connor, one of the councilors with doubts about Peduto's overhaul, agrees. "I don't think that it's fair that if you're selling pizza out of your truck, you can park in front of a pizza shop." 

Restaurant owners also object. 

"As long as they can't park in front of existing businesses, no one has an issue" with food trucks, says Jeff Cohen, a board member of the Western Chapter of the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association, and owner of the Smallman Street Deli. "We want it to be a fair playing field." 

But Peduto warns that proximity restrictions could get the city sued: As long as a food truck is in compliance with zoning rules, he says, "we don't have the constitutional right to tell a business where it can locate." 

O'Connor says he has other concerns, including the proposal to increase the amount of time a food truck remains in one location. But he says he likes the idea of "doing something new and innovative," and is open to debating the issue. But "the bill just hasn't come up," he says, "so we put it on the back burner at this point."

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