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North Little Rock City Council gives green light to food-truck court

by Stephen Simpson | June 15, 2021 at 7:01 a.m.
North Little Rock City Hall at 300 Main St. is shown in this 2020 file photo.

A proposal for a large food-truck court near Dickey-Stephens Park in North Little Rock was approved Monday after the business owners agreed to a couple of amendments to ease the concerns of some neighbors and council members.

The North Little Rock City Council unanimously approved an ordinance that allows Demetris Settles and Lawrence Barbee to house a dozen food trucks on a parking lot at 601 W. Fourth St., which required special permission from the city.

The request is the latest in a series of moves the city has made over the past few years to bring more businesses to North Little Rock.

Last year, a food-truck court and indoor farmers market was established in the Park Hill area. The City Council also approved an ordinance last year establishing a downtown entertainment district in the Argenta area as part of an effort to boost the city's economy during the covid-19 pandemic.

The original proposed ordinance was amended to make the West Fourth Street food-truck court closing hours on Friday and Saturday 10 p.m. instead of midnight. The council also agreed to require the property owners to put a fence on the north and south sides of the property to prevent trash from leaving the property.

The ordinance states that the applicants will be required to provide on-site restrooms, picnic tables for patrons, off-street parking for three mobile food vehicles and to close continuous curb cuts using temporary materials such as planters, benches, pavers or other furniture.

The mobile food vehicles will not be permitted to sell anything other than food and nonalcoholic beverages.

The measure was originally presented to the City Council May 10 but had been postponed ever since. Mayor Terry Hartwick attributed the delay to city officials being unsure of the intent the property owners had for the area.

"They were trying to have events at the building next to the property and turn it into a type of an events center, and it's not zoned for that," Hartwick said previously.

Jim Scott, the city's deputy city clerk and revenue enforcement officer, and members of the Planning Commission and Fire Department met with the property owners and explained the situation.

Jeff Watson, a property owner near the food court, emailed the City Council with concerns about the proposal.

"Owning a small business in North Little Rock for many years and housing two others on my property, I am an avid proponent of such," he said. "However I have concerns about the proposed Food Truck Court."

Watson said he was concerned about the original hours of the food court on Friday and Saturday being from 8 a.m. until midnight.

"The Red Store is the only other business to my knowledge to stay open that late, and it is located on a state highway and not in a residential area," he said.

The times were amended by the City Council because city lawyer Amy Fields said the property is in the Argenta Quiet Overlay District.

Watson also mentioned the possibility of noise from a number of generators on the property, parking issues and potential trash.

Scott Cook, a resident near the property, also spoke at the meeting and mentioned concerns about noise and how the property had been the location of parties in the past.

"If they break rules now, then what other rules will they break?" he said.

Robinson said it was important to remember what was before the board was not the conduct of the property owners, but the topic of the food court.

"Grant you that there have been other activities that have been going on, but tonight we are not dealing with those activities," she said. "We are dealing with the food court."

Barbee spoke at the meeting and agreed to all the amendments made by the City Council.

Council Member Charlie Hight attempted to have the ordinance amended to require security on the property because of the number of people who could potentially gather at the food court.

Council Member Nathan Hamilton pointed out there was no security at the food court located in Park Hill and there shouldn't be the need for it at the property located at 601 W. Fourth St.

Hight's amendment didn't receive a second motion and failed to move forward.

"It's a great location, and as far as security it would be up to you," Council Member Debi Ross told Barbee. "You will know when you need security."

Lateisha Barbee, a relative of Lawrence Barbee, said she was concerned about the number of additional requirements being put on the food-truck court.

"Give them the same opportunity as any other business," she said. "As far as amendments, I am sure they don't have any problems with what has been put forward, but at what point will amendments stop."

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