Tuesday, February 7, 2023

York County Supervisors Delay Vote on Expanded Food Truck Policy

Chairman Tom Shepperd (District 5) said he wanted to make sure York County's new food truck policy did not have unintended consequences for ice cream trucks. (York County)
Chairman Tom Shepperd (District 5) said he wanted to make sure York County’s new food truck policy did not have unintended consequences for ice cream trucks. (York County)

A question on how a new food truck ordinance, which would not allow them in residential areas, would affect ice cream trucks led to the vote being delayed until next month.

The York County Board of Supervisors hosted the public hearing on a proposal to allow food trucks on private properties, but decided to table the vote so county staff can look into whether its ordinance would inadvertently prohibit ice cream trucks in county neighborhoods.

Chairman Tom Shepperd (District 5) raised the question during a discussion before the public hearing Tuesday night, first asking Principal Planner Tim Cross, of the county Planning Division, to explain the difference between food trucks and ice cream trucks.

Though Cross explained ice cream truck owners could likely obtain the required administrative permit to operate as a food truck, he could not articulate how food trucks could not currently operate in a neighborhood when an ice cream truck is allowed. Neither Cross nor County Attorney James Barnett could answer whether the proposed ordinance would prohibit ice cream trucks in neighborhoods.

“It honestly did not occur to me as I was reviewing the ordinance,” Barnett said.

The proposed ordinance change would allow food trucks, currently allowed only for special events, on developed and occupied property throughout the county, with the exception of residential zones. Food trucks would not be allowed within 100 feet of a residence.

Food truck owners will be required to secure an administrative permit, a York County business license and a health permit before operating within the county. The administrative permit would expire after a year but could be renewed annually through a written request.

Property owners will have to provide their written consent to food truck operators, and that consent must be kept on the truck to be available upon request.

While board members seemed poised to give the ordinance change their support, they agreed to give staff time to do research regarding Shepperd’s concerns and to tweak the regulation’s language if necessary. The board voted 5-0 to table the vote.

“The board needs to make sure we pass an ordinance that passes the common-sense test,” Shepperd said.

Three people spoke during the public hearing – a resident, a brewery owner and a potential food truck operator – in support of loosening the current food truck restrictions in the county.

“Food trucks and craft breweries have a very symbiotic relationship,” said Chris Smith, co-owner of Virginia Beer Company. “We work closely together all over the country, contributing to the economic vitality of the communities and contributing a lot of tax dollars together. [Food trucks are] great for craft breweries because it keeps people coming back to us, and we just enjoy giving other small businesses an opportunity to operate their business.”

Virginia Beer Company, slated to open on Second Street in early 2016, has already designed its parking lot to include a space for food trucks.

Sue Patton, owner of the Aldrich House Bed & Breakfast in the City of Williamsburg, spoke publicly in favor of the ordinance for a second time; she previously stated her intention to operate a food truck last month during the Planning Commission’s public hearing on the proposal.

Patton said she has wanted to open a barbecue restaurant and a food truck would be a way to start that venture on a smaller scale.

“Not only am I speaking on behalf of a brick-and-mortar business, but I’m also speaking on behalf of a business that can expand,” Patton said.

With the vote, York County would become the first Historic Triangle locality to allow food trucks beyond special events. The City of Williamsburg explicitly prohibits food trucks except for special events, while James City County’s omission of food trucks in its ordinance renders them prohibited.

Williamsburg’s City Council recently expressed interest in expanding its food truck policy; last week, the city’s Planning Department requested more guidance from council in order to better shape the policy.

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