Food Trailers vs. Neighborhood Tranquility

by Sebastian Wren

When people describe what they love about Northfield, typically they say that they love its eclectic atmosphere, convenient location, quaint houses, and awesome neighbors.  And usually people specifically say that they love being able to walk to a variety of shops, restaurants, and interesting destinations.

Everybody loves the wide variety of destinations in the neighborhood, but nobody likes living next to a bad neighbor.  Sometimes when an innovative, new business opens in the neighborhood, they create problems for the quality of life enjoyed by nearby neighbors.

We love the cool restaurant or bar nearby, but we’re not wild about all the cars circling around looking for free parking on our streets.  We love the new coffee shop, but we’re not at all happy to be awakened in the middle of the night by noise generated by the coffee shop.

And we love the idea of food trailers — they’re cool, hip, and edgy — but there are problems that come along with having them near people’s homes.  A lot of us loved the “food trailer park” at the corner of Martin and 53rd, but living nearby was no treat.  While we all enjoyed an occasional Red Rabbit doughnut, nearby neighbors put up with daily trash in their yards, noise at odd hours, and a nasty rodent infestation.  And don’t forget the smell — nothing beats the smell of baked goods mixed with outdoor chemical toilets.

MMMmmm — Chemical doughnuts….

The food trailer park at Martin and 53rd is gone now, but the idea of a food trailer park still remains.  A new food trailer is trying a similar model at Bruning and Evans.  The Feedlot (“Austin’s newest food park!”) has fenced in the lot around the Snappy Mart, installed a large outdoor seating area, and parked their trailer inside. They have invested a good deal of money fixing up the lot, putting in covered seating, and preparing for their grand opening (any day now).

This sounds quaint, but it may not be a great treat for nearby neighbors.  The Feedlot website is advertising their plans for live music and late hours.  And that may not be music to the ears (ahem) for people who are living and raising their children nearby.

When Epoch Coffee first opened, many people were excited about having a 24 hour coffee shop in the neighborhood, but people who lived nearby soon discovered that there is a down-side.  People listening to music and laughing and having fun out on the deck at Epoch at 3:00 in the morning are just bad neighbors.

After a little complaining, Epoch tried to be better neighbors — they turned down the speakers out on the deck, and asked their patrons to be mindful of their noise.  It’s not perfect, but at least they tried, and I think most people would now say that Epoch is a valuable addition to our neighborhood.

Finding the balance between cool and annoying isn’t always easy.  A new restaurant opening in the neighborhood is exciting, and hopefully they have great food we can all enjoy.  But let us also encourage our new neighbors to be mindful of those around them — Let’s be clear about our expectations that they keep the area clean, and keep the noise down.

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