Henry Nixon
Henry Nixon

Members of the York City Council have agreed to take their time with a proposal to increase the number of food-cart vendors allowed on Continental Square from one to 12.

The idea was one of many topics of debate Wednesday at a lengthy council meeting.

"This is something that I believe warrants discussion. Let's talk about it and see if it's something that we can compromise on," Councilman Henry Nixon said. "I don't think government should legislate a monopoly."

In fact, Nixon said, he regrets just one vote during his time on the council - when he voted to limit Continental Square's food-cart licenses to just one.

Because the city's single license is up for grabs through a lottery system every year, it makes the lone vendor vulnerable to losing his or her income stream every 365 days, Nixon said.

Nixon said he's open to debating the appropriate number of licenses for the square. The proposed number of 12 is just a starting point, he said.

"My concern is that we not have just one," Nixon said.

Councilman David Satterlee said that he's "not a fan of regulating free enterprise in this kind of regard."

Food vendors "expand the culture of the community," he said.

"If they can't make a living, they don't exist," Satterlee said. "If the food's good and is a reasonable price, they'll make a living."

The debate - which will remain in committee for now - centers on the question of food carts' potential impact on existing brick-and-mortar restaurants.

Douglas Knight, Downtown Inc's marketing director, said his organization is interested in helping the council update the current ordinance. Downtown Inc is thinking more along the lines of one food cart per quadrant of the square, he said.

"There's probably some wiggle room in here," he said.

- Reach Erin James at ejames@yorkdispatch.com.