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Amherst preparing regulations for downtown food carts

James McGinniss pays Elsayad Abdelgalio a co-owner of The New York Halal Food cart last fall. Abdelgalio's cart is one of three such operations that have been stationed in downtown Amherst. Northampton City Council has signaled they'd like to reconsider the city's ban on food trucks.

James McGinniss pays Elsayad Abdelgalio a co-owner of The New York Halal Food cart last fall. Abdelgalio's cart is one of three such operations that have been stationed in downtown Amherst. Northampton City Council has signaled they'd like to reconsider the city's ban on food trucks. Purchase photo reprints »

As the weather gets warmer and food carts return to the streets of downtown Amherst, town officials are working to develop regulations that will limit the number and locations of these enterprises.

At Monday’s Select Board meeting, Chairwoman Stephanie O’Keeffe presented an outline of possible guidelines to generate reaction from her colleagues, town officials, residents and business owners.

O’Keeffe said while the current situation could benefit from some control, she advised restraint.

“We don’t want to overregulate what is a small food-truck situation,” O’Keeffe said.

The town has always issued food cart licenses, but generally in a casual way, with the periodic hot dog vendor operating from the sidewalks. O’Keeffe said she wants the town to be ready in case there is an influx of such vendors. Concerns were raised last fall about three food carts, though the Select Board got formal complaints about just two.

New York Halal Food set up at the corner of North Pleasant Street and Kellogg Avenue; complaints centered on its customers using outdoor tables at a nearby restaurant and motorists attempts to use the cart as a drive-through window.

Paris & Ty’s has been located next to the Town Common on South Pleasant Street, with the primary concern being the noise made by its generator.

The third food cart is Bite Me Please Grilled Cheese, located near the weekly farmers markets during the spring, summer and fall.

The memo related to the potential new regulations is accompanied by maps showing sidewalks and parking spaces where future food carts would be allowed, mostly near green areas: the Town Common, Kendrick Park and Sweetser Park. It also suggests a cap of six on-street trucks and four sidewalk carts.

“Our recommendation is that growth should be directed toward areas of lighter use in order to encourage liveliness and vibrancy throughout the downtown,” the memo reads.

The proposal developed out of a meeting in the fall with Alex Krogh-Grabbe, executive director of the Amherst Business Improvement District, and Tony Maroulis, executive director of the Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce.

The regulations make no change in the $125 permits for mobile food service from the Board of Health and $100 lunch cart licenses from the Select Board.

O’Keeffe said the aim is to approve new regulations this spring.

Anyone is welcome to submit feedback to the Select Board at Town Hall or by sending email to selectboard@amherstma.gov.

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