Roadside rules

At a meeting last week, officials in Southwest Harbor debated whether to explore adopting local regulations concerning the operation of roadside food trucks in town.

While the number of such operations is in no way about to overwhelm the community, the question needs to be addressed. For example, do untaxed roadside operations have an unfair competitive advantage over traditional brick-and-mortar eateries that support the community with property tax dollars and water and sewer fees?

Leveling that playing field could require that mobile food vendors license their vehicles in the town, paying the associated excise tax. Those registered elsewhere could be required to pay a fee equal to the excise tax.

Along with safeguarding sanitation and food safety for potential customers, local rules should insure that food trucks are not allowed to trespass on private property. The issue arises at traditional pull-out locations, where some pull-outs may be on public property and some on private property where the state or town has an easement. In the latter, a stranger shouldn’t be permitted to operate a business there without landowner consent.

We are sympathetic with those who lament that modern society has become so complex that one no longer can simply set up a hot dog cart as the first step to building a food-service empire, but the concerns about running such a business need to be addressed. Failing to do so would invite an unfettered proliferation of food trucks with all the potential problems they might create.

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