Food trucks will operate on public land in James City County

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The Offbeat Eats food truck was created by Jason and Jon Wade of Two Drummers Smokehouse in James City County. (Kirsten Petersen/ WYDaily)
The Offbeat Eats food truck was created by Jason and Jon Wade of Two Drummers Smokehouse in James City County. (Kirsten Petersen/ WYDaily)

After months of careful consideration, James City County will now permit the operation of food trucks.

The JCC Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday night to pass an ordinance amendment to the county code allowing food truck vendors to operate their businesses within specified zoning areas of the county.

“This has become a very popular dining option,” said Supervisor Kevin Onizuk (Jamestown) about food trucks. “It’s trendy. It’s a great way to eat. It really fits in with who we are trying to become as a food and beverage destination.”

Food trucks had previously not been defined or addressed in JCC’s code, and were therefore not permitted in the county except when catering special events — which required a special use permit. Food trucks catering private and special events will still require a special use permit.

Food trucks are now permitted to operate on land zoned as M-1 Limited Business/Industrial Zoning, M-2 General Industrial Zoning, PL Public Lands, and PUD-C Planned Unit and Development-Commercial.

Chairman Michael Hipple (Powhatan) said he believes the amendments will allow more diverse options for the food industry. He pointed out that one local restaurant, Two Drummers Smokehouse, which operates a food truck in addition to their location in Toano.

“It gives you more of a chance to offer options for venues,” Hipple said. “This will allow the food to come to you.”

The amendment passed by the board stipulates that in order to obtain a permit for operation, mobile food vendors will be required to attain a permit from the Virginia Department of Health, approval from a fire department after an inspection, and written documentation of consent from the owner of the property on which the truck is operating. Permits will last for one year, at which point the vendor will be able to apply again.

Included in the amendment are regulations requiring vendors to limit the volume of music so that it is inaudible from 100 feet away from their truck or at the edge of the property on which they operate. Food trucks will not be permitted to park in right-of-ways, handicapped spaces, or within 100 feet of off-site residential or restaurant entrances.

York County’s Board of Supervisors approved similar legislation regarding food trucks in January, and Williamsburg’s City Council asked its staff to research food truck policy in December 2015.

“In order to compete with our neighboring jurisdictions, I think it’s a good idea,” said Supervisor Ruth Larson (Berkeley) about the amendment. “It offers more ways for us to be a foodie locality.”

The Board of Supervisors formally initiated consideration of food trucks in April. The matter was then taken to the Planning Commission for review and a public hearing. The draft amendment was recommended by the Planning Commission in September, also unanimously, before returning to the board Tuesday.

The Planning Commission also voted to recommend the passage of ordinance amendments for the operation of food trucks within the B-1 Business district at a meeting last week. The Board of Supervisors will vote on the B-1 amendment at the Dec. 13 monthly meeting.

Onizuk stated that he does not believe the additional competition from food trucks will harm the business of traditional restaurants because “a rising tide raises all boats.”

“Doggone it, people like to travel to eat and drink,” he said. “And enough people come here that this will be a big compliment to what we offer with our brick and mortar locations.”