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City Council continues to weigh proposal to limit food cart hours in Short North

Adam Wallace
Adam Wallace, owner of Feed the Need and Adam's Eden food carts, testifying on proposed food cart ordinance.

Testimony continues on a city proposal to limit food cart hours in Columbus' Short North neighborhood, one of several ideas to reduce crime and noise in the area. Supporters of the city's growing mobile food scene say trucks and carts are an entry point for entrepreneurs, bringing vibrancy and diversity to streets. But critics say it is increasingly bringing noise, trash, and crime to neighborhoods.

Betsy Pandora of the Short North Alliance says the number of businesses and late night activities in the Short North have increased over 60 percent since 2015, and that safety issues rise as the evening wears on. She says the Short North Crime Interdiction Program, a partnership with the city, has made over 550 safety interventions so far this year, especially late at night and when foot traffic is high. Melaine Mahaffey has business and rental property on North High Street, and says noise levels and food cart patrons affect the neighborhood long after closing hours

"Our new streetscape sidewalks are now a permanently stained embarrassment. My sisters and I spend every weekend morning picking up food cart trash, scrubbing grease and vomit. The tenants regularly complain of noise and fights that occur many times well until after 4am. Even if the food carts leave at 3 - which they often do not - the crowds do not"

But the committee also heard from food vendors who say they're not the source of problems in the area. Adam Wallace owns a food truck and several carts that operate in the Short North says no data has been released that shows a link between food vendors and crime in Columbus, and he points to experience in cities like New York that have partnered with vendors as "eyes and ears on the street". Wallace says - rather than limit food carts in neighborhoods like the Short North - the city should embrace them.

"The city needs to increase the number of food carts in the Short North, along with the number of businesses that have increased, so that we can handle the increased volume faster. Extend our hours of operation so that we can continue to be the 'eyes and ears' of the police. We are invested in the neighborhoods we serve, and date shows that."

Long time Short North resident Eric Jolie says he appreciates the city's efforts to improve conditions in the Short North. But he says the city must first accept responsibility for creating the situation.

"This is no longer the "reborn Short North success story" that received glowing reviews from the New York Times.... Instead it has become over-saturated with late night establishments, many with owners displaced from campus and Park Street. So I ask that the city consider how many liquor licenses, outdoor patios and late-night party places is too much for one neighborhood."

The proposals to cut back food cart hours and curb noise violations comes after a summer of complaints about increasing crime, including fatal shootings. Another hearing is scheduled for December 6th.

A native of Chicago, naturalized citizen of Cincinnati and resident of Columbus, Alison attended Earlham College and the Ohio State University. She has equal passion for Midwest history, hockey and Slavic poetry.