By. Brent Wilson, Field Officer
Mobile Food Units, more commonly referred to as “Food Trucks” have gained in popularity over the last seven or eight years. According to IBIS World Market Information Service:
The Food Trucks industry has only grown in strength over the past five years, and is one of the best performing segments in the broader food-services sector. The industry’s remarkable rise began in 2008, just as the recession hit, as hundreds of new vendors recognized changing consumer preferences favoring unique, gourmet cuisine. Cities such as Portland, Oregon, Los Angeles and Austin sought to differentiate themselves by crafting laws and creating areas specially designed for mobile food trucks. While the recession put the brakes on the broader food-services sector in 2008-09, it was in fact a boon for the Food Trucks industry as consumers sought to maximize their disposable income by indulging in small conveniences such the affordable gourmet food
In the past few years more and more mobile food units have been appearing in Greene County and this has lead the county to propose a revision to their zoning ordinances, Articles 8, 9, 10, Business B-1, B-2 and B-3, and Articles 11 and 12, Industrial (Limited) M-1, and Industrial (General) M-2, Article 22 Definitions to include mobile food units as a by right use. This led to the Greene County Board of Supervisors to review the proposal at their October 14th meeting.
Bart Svoboda, Greene County’s Zoning Administrator/Planning Director, reviewed the proposed ordinance (OR#14-005). He indicated that he looked at Albemarle County and other counties in the valley to see how they handle this issue. The current rules that address brick and mortal restaurants don’t work for portable food units. The new ordinance would be used for wheeled, towed or pushcart stands. Greene has towable trailers which have their own power generation and water supply. The rules are different because the set-up is different.
The new ordinance proposes safe parking be provided, not the side of a roadway. It will allow one vendor to have three locations with approval of the owner of the sites. The Health Department must approve the operation especially for disposal of waste. A dining space no larger than 10 feet x 10 feet is to be allowed and that it is required to be packed up and cleaned each night. The unit is to be at least 100 feet from a residential use – away from homes. The recommendation is to offer a one year approval and that it must be updated annually.
The session was opened to the public but there were no one wishing to speak. The session was then brought to the supervisor’s discussion. Supervisor Davis Lamb (Ruckersville District) asked what happens if a vendor wants more than three locations. Svoboda said that the vendor would need to make a second application for another three spaces all approved by the owners. Supervisor Bill Martin (Stanardsville District) asked how the mobile unit would be handled if the owner of the parking area is a brick and mortar restaurant. Svoboda stated it is up to the owner of the property to grant permission to the mobile unit owner – they would have the right to decline the request of the mobile unit.
Chairman Jim Frydl (Midway District) asked Svoboda how this would be handled at a vineyard. Svoboda answered that the zoning of the property would determine if it would be allowed or not. At the county fair which is held on property that is zoned A-1 a food truck would be allowed because of the condition of the fair which overrides the A-1 zoning of the property where the fair is located. The food truck couldn’t set up on the fairgrounds without the fair going on, since it is zoned A-1. Supervisor David Cox (Monroe District) asked if food trucks would be allowed on school property and the answer was no since it was not one of the allowable zones. But they could locate as close as the nearest zone in the revised ordinance.
Chairman Frydl’s last comment was that a food truck probably compliments many of the businesses that might host a food truck. Also, the county would have no liability if there are any injuries caused near a food truck – this would be the responsibility of the individual causing the accident. Finally, he has asked several restaurant owners if they opposed food trucks and the answer was no as long as there were rules similar to what is proposed in the new ordinance. At this point the discussion was closed and the revision to the ordinance was approved unanimously.
The Free Enterprise Forum’s coverage of Greene County is provided by a grant from the Charlottesville Area Association of REALTORS® and by the support of readers like you.
Brent Wilson is the Greene County Field Officer for the Free Enterprise Forum a privately funded public policy organization.
Photo Credits: Pintrest, Vintage Virginia, Frydl Campaign