HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - At 4 p.m. Tuesday, Horry County leaders are scheduled to discuss several topics that have a lot of people talking.
The future of food trucks and the possibility of a gun range in Horry County have generated the most buzz among the community. It's been five months since council members shot down the mobile food truck pilot program in October.
No votes or decisions will be made Monday; the meeting is for conversation. The public is welcome to attend the meeting and provide input to council.
This discussion over food trucks is happening today for three main reasons. One, council did not vote against the idea of food trucks back in October. They voted against the way the ordinance was written. Second, they put the discussion on hold after voting "no" last year. They haven't brought it up since, but it's still something they are interested in. The third reason is that there are three new council members. It's been so long since the last discussion, because they were transitioning into their new role in council over the last two months. And the council chairman wanted everyone to be on the same page before opening a discussion again.
On Tuesday, everyone will be walked through the whole process the county went through last year. The discussion on food trucks goes back to December 2013. After committee work and extensive research, the infrastructure and regulation committee gave a one-year pilot program the green light. From there it went to Horry County Council. When council suddenly put the brakes on the one-year pilot program, everyone was surprised. In a county-wide survey, 94 percent of people were in favor of food trucks. County leaders say that it isn't that the county isn't listening, it's that they have legitimate concerns. And the ordinance needed to be polished before they agreed to the pilot program.
"There was probably more overwhelming favor in response to the ordinance for that," says Lisa Bourcier, the spokeswoman for Horry County. "But somehow it got sidetracked along the way. So again we're back to square one regarding the food trucks."
One of the big concerns county council has is the competition food trucks could pose to brick and mortar restaurants. One council member voted "no" but suggested limiting food trucks to sell only at construction sites and special events. On the other hand, another voted "no" because the pilot program is only a one-year program. And he worries what would happen if the pilot program shuts down after a year, that the vendor would lose thousands of dollars. Another huge problem council members have – there was concern about health related issues if vendors are cooking on the trucks. So the plan was to discuss permitting the food trucks to only have pre-made and pre-packaged food to eliminate that worry.
"We did have very favorable input regarding the food trucks," says Bourcier. "We actually sent out surveys to people. And we actually had some group of the planning commission work on all these specifics in the ordinance. We actually had individuals in the restaurant business as well as individuals interested in the food trucks participate in that sub-committee as well."
Tuesday, council will also be talking about the proposal for a county gun range. Much like the food trucks, the discussion on the gun range hit a stalemate back in the fall of 2014. County staff had zeroed in on the location that was close to the solid waste authority in Conway. The county was considering building its own public shooting range.
The council struggled with whether or not it wanted to get involved in running and owning a public gun range. They worried about liability issues and the costs of operation. This never made it to county council for a vote.
So county leaders are now reopening the discussion. Tuesday, they will go back through all the information presented up to this point and re-evaluate where they stand. They're considering a grant that could help with building the facility, and then leasing the operations out to a third party. We know many people expressed concern over noise from the gun range being a nuisance to neighbors.
There's no time table on what they'll decide or when they'll even want to bring the ordinance back to council. They're going to be discussing all of that today.