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Dozens of amendments proposed for food truck bill

A City Council committee considering new regulations for Baltimore's growing food truck industry plans to hold work sessions as members evaluate more than 50 proposed amendments.

Councilman James B. Kraft, chairman of the committee, said he's been inundated with letters as major parts of the legislation remain undecided. During a meeting Tuesday on the legislation, Kraft told a crowd of vendors that he received a pro-food truck petition with 700 signatures from across the country. He said he plans to throw the document in the trash.

"It's absurd," Kraft said, noting that many of those weighing in weren't from Baltimore. "Call the people off. It's wasting our time. It's wasting their time."

The Rawlings-Blake administration has proposed setting up zones for the food trucks, which sell hamburgers, tacos, cupcakes and other items. The legislation was written to encourage the vendors while also limiting where they operate to protect brick-and-mortar restaurants.

But some truck operators have expressed concern that the limits would hurt their business, and the city's proposal has been in flux. A city official said Monday that the administration plans to ask the council to allow trucks to operate outside the zones.

Some truck owners have criticized the plan as vague. They point out that the city has not established where the zones will be and has not released the rules of a proposed lottery to determine which trucks can go where.

Kraft and Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke said Tuesday that they want the administration to establish the zones before the council votes on a bill.

"Could you start figuring out where the zones are going to go?" Clarke asked.

Rawlings-Blake spokesman Kevin R. Harris said the administration has worked collaboratively on the legislation and that the new rules would be subject to a public comment and review period.

The legislation is the city's effort to adopt comprehensive regulations for the industry, which has operated under temporary rules since 2011. Under those rules, the trucks can operate throughout the city. They are prohibited only from selling within 300 feet of an existing restaurant.

Kraft said dates for the work sessions have not been set. In the meantime, Kraft asked food truck operators to "build a better relationship" with restaurants in their area.

In January, the Baltimore County Council passed rules barring food trucks within 200 feet of brick-and-mortar restaurants. The county has set up food truck parking zones near the County Courts Building in Towson and Towson University.

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