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Members of the James City County Planning Commission agreed that zoning amendments permitting food trucks should be less restrictive than those of neighboring localities during its Policy Committee meeting Thursday afternoon.
JCC Planner Roberta Sulouff presented the committee with discussion items related to the potential amendments, which are proposed to allow food trucks in the parking lots of the county’s industrial parks.
Discussion items included the definition of food trucks, permissions required of vendors and hours of operation.
Food trucks are not listed as a permitted or specially permitted use in any of the county’s zoning districts and are not defined anywhere in the county’s Zoning Ordinance.
Sulouff recommended a less restrictive definition of food trucks than the one used by York County, which specifically excludes mobile food concession vehicles, or “chuck wagons.”
The zoning ordinance amendments were originally proposed following requests for food trucks at industrial parks, which are also considered the clientele of “chuck wagons.”
“Chuck wagons, by their definition, appear to be kind of what we’re trying to help foster – food service directly to people who don’t have food options,” Sulouff said. “Staff was heading toward an area where we’re not getting into that level of restriction.”
Committee member Heath Richardson (Stonehouse) agreed, recalling the “roach coaches” that served hot and cold food to U.S. Navy sailors.
“When we get into that level of detail like York County, that could be a mistake,” Richardson said.
Sulouff discussed ways for food truck operators to indicate if they have permission to operate outside a particular business, whether it is an advance notice or a sign on the truck posted the day-of.
Committee member John Wright, III (At-large) said he would like to know “upfront” where the trucks will operate and emphasized that there needs to be a communication plan in place not only with citizens but also with nearby eateries.
“I would want us to have had some feedback from restaurant owners and other food suppliers who have brick-and-mortar and saying ‘That’s okay,’” Wright said.
Sulouff said she and Kate Sipes, assistant director of economic development, would collaborate on outreach to restaurant owners.
While the goal of the amendments would be to benefit industrial workers, the zoning districts that would be affected could contain established eateries. For example, Courthouse Commons is classified as M-1 Limited Business/Industrial zoning, which is one of the three districts under consideration.
The other two districts are the M-2 General Industrial zoning and the PUD-C Planned Unit Development-Commercial zoning.
The committee discussed how it could enforce hours of operation and settled on two options – either a vendor would be restricted to hours between 6:30 a.m. and 9:30 p.m., or they would abide by the hours established by the business they are servicing. For example, a manufacturing plant that operates at all hours could allow a food truck to serve workers late at night.
Restrictions on signage, lighting and parking locations were also discussed, but the committee agreed that these first amendments are the county’s way of taking “baby steps” when it comes to permitting food trucks and the policy should remain “simple and clear.”
“I don’t want to start crafting something that has so many convolutions that it becomes a major effort,” said committee member Rich Krapf (Powhatan).
Sulouff said she is planning to present a draft ordinance to the committee in July.