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As the culinary offerings in the City of Williamsburg continue to grow, City Council wants to consider adding food trucks to the mix.
Council members added developing a food truck policy and tweaking its street entertainment ordinances to its list of priorities for city staff this fiscal year, which ends June 2016, during its retreat in the Municipal Building on Aug. 28.
The council met with the city’s top administrators, City Manager Marvin Collins III and Deputy City Manager Jodi Miller, at the Municipal Building to revisit the policy initiatives that should be pursued to achieve the municipality’s goals for the next year.
Though taking a look at changes to the food truck and street entertainment policies in the city has been added to the priority list, the policies are not guaranteed to change. The initiative charges the city manager and his staff only to look into the issues.
Currently, food trucks are not allowed on the city’s streets, except in the case of special events or farmers markets.
Food trucks became the focus of the conversation, with three of the five council members – Scott Foster, Mayor Clyde Haulman and Vice Mayor Paul Freiling – listing a policy change regarding food trucks as a top priority to benefit the city’s economic vitality.
“We have a lot of [culinary options] that are really cool and then some stuff that just has not evolved with the times,” said Foster, who started the conversation at the retreat. “I see food trucks as an avenue to allow for creative culinary opportunities and low overhead for a business to develop a product and eventually take on a permanent residence here.”
While all five members of City Council agreed food trucks would be a good addition to the city, they also acknowledged the policy should be carefully crafted.
“It’s a complicated thing because you don’t want to undermine the bricks-and-mortar people who made an investment in this community,” Freiling said.
Council offered the idea of limiting it to current business owners but did not set that standard as a specific goal, instead leaving all possibilities open for city staff to consider as the proposed policy is shaped.
Creating a policy that complements rather than competes with the city’s restaurants will be a top concern, Foster said in an interview with WYDaily, along with making sure the food trucks are allowed in areas that won’t interfere with the Williamsburg experience.
“I think food trucks help to create a much more casual atmosphere that promotes people taking the time to be outdoors, walk around and take the time to enjoy themselves and their surroundings,” Foster said.
The College of William & Mary has operated two food trucks – Wholly Habaneros and BBQ 1693 – on its campus, which is state-owned property, since the fall of 2014. The college boasts the addition as a success, saying it’s popular to both students and visitors to the campus.
“Not only do they provide additional lunch options on campus but they are well-received at athletic events,” said Cynthia Glavas, the college’s director of auxiliary services.
Changing the food truck policy would likely require input from several offices, said Carolyn Murphy, the city’s deputy director of planning. While her office would look into land-use issues, such as where the food trucks would be allowed to park, she anticipates the public safety, buildings and code, public works and state health departments would also play a part in offering a new policy recommendation to City Council.
The work to change the food trucks policy would be in an effort to enhance the vibe – a goal that led council members, at the suggestion of Foster, to a discussion on whether to adjust the policy for street performances.
“Every place I go where there’s a real energy or excitement or it’s a neat place to be that we want to stay longer, they have some degree of street entertainment,” Freiling said at the retreat.
Under the First Amendment, people are allowed to perform on city-owned land as long as they are not panhandling or violating the noise ordinance.
Foster said he would like to see the city find a policy that accommodates those performers who want to do more than strum a guitar on the side of the street and less than put on a major concert that closes roads.
“I think we can elevate [the policy] a little more,” Foster said. “I’m imagining something like more outlets for people who want to plug in. I think it could really help change the energy in the city.”
Though adjustments to the street entertainment policy were discussed in conjunction with food trucks, it was added to the policy priority list as a separate item and council members identified only the food trucks policy as a top priority.
City Manager Marvin Collins is now charged with bringing council’s policy initiatives to city staff to develop recommendations, which will come back to council for discussion and a vote.