Hooray for Mark Shirley & Ole Time Smokehouse!

Three cheers for the proverbial little guy, as Mark Shirley and his Ole Time Smokehouse food truck won the fight against the Town of Farmville! You might remember that the commissioners voted in April 2021 to change the food truck permit fee from $100 per year to $75 per day, to restrict any one truck to two days of service per week and to make them stay 100 feet away from the property line of any existing restaurant. For Mark Shirley, his cost would increase from $100 to $7,500 per year for simply parking his food truck within Farmville’s town limits. The rumor was that a local restaurant owner had complained that the good income from Shirley’s booming business was unfair since he paid sales taxes but not property taxes.

After leaving his former job and investing almost everything in this food truck venture, Shirley decided he was not going to take Farmville’s booting him out of town lying down. A local government should not pick economic winners and losers. Shirley enlisted legal help from Billy Strickland of Strickland, Agner and Pittman out of Goldsboro. Strickland’s counsel was incredibly helpful throughout what ended up being a lengthy almost-two-year process. Shirley hit it big when Pacific Legal Foundation, a national libertarian law firm, caught wind of his plight. Having won multiple cases at the U.S. Supreme Court and standing up for “little” people against government overreach and entrenched interests, Pacific Legal decided this was just the kind of case they wanted to pursue. Seasoned attorney Jessica Thompson was quickly assigned the lawsuit against the Town of Farmville. She and Strickland went to work big time.

On or near July 26, 2022 legal counsel from both sides met for an attempt at mediation. It had become clear that the Town of Farmville could not justify the exorbitant increase in food truck permit fees from $100 per year to $75 per day or demanding that food trucks stay at least 100 feet away from any restaurant’s property line as opposed to from their front door. Apparently, the town’s representation knew they were in a corner and agreed to recommend a $300 annual permit fee, no days-of-service restrictions and reverting to the original proximity limit of 100 feet from a brick-and-mortar restaurant’s front door. Farmville commissioners would have 90 days to vote on the recommended/mediated food truck ordinance amendment.

As things tend to go in Farmville, it seemed the “powers that be” would keep Ole Time Smokehouse outside of town limits for as long as possible. Sure enough, not until Monday night, October 3, at the town board meeting did the commissioners vote on the food truck ordinance amendment. With as little fanfare and as few words as possible, the Town of Farmville gave up some government overreach. Please watch the linked recording at the bottom of this page from 9:30-13:00, although it is inaudible at many points. Commissioners Smith and Dixon once again recused themselves from a food truck vote, as they had conflicts of interest due to local property holdings.

This is a tremendous victory for Mark Shirley/Ole Time Smokehouse as well as for the North Carolina Constitution which assures us of our right to the “enjoyment of the fruits” of our own labor! Shirley hopes to resume serving lunch in his former, convenient spot not far from the CVS. Another piece of good news is that he might be open in this location on Mondays, a day on which many other local restaurants are closed. Let’s make an effort to get out and support all kinds of Farmville businesses!

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