Lexington’s Food Trucks Make it to Economic Development Committee

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Today, recommendations from Lexington’s new Food Truck Work Group, recently appointed by Vice Mayor Linda Gorton, made it as far as the Economic Development Committee at Lexington Fayette Urban County Government.

Food Truck Blast 2012. Photo aceweekly.com.

Council Member Shevawn Akers chairs the Mobile Food Truck Work Group and said the group’s first goal was “to streamline permitting and licensing processes thru LFUCG. Second goal is to establish guidelines to protect neighborhoods, protect brick and mortars and still encourage food trucks.” The group has met twice, and will meet again on March 1. Akers was absent with the flu, and Council Member Bill Farmer presented the Group’s recommendations.

What he presented to Economic Development was the first half of the proposed ordinance drafted by Shevawn Akers.

His introduction to the items that have consensus and are ready to move forward for a Council vote offered some indication of just how lengthy and complicated the process has been:

“As you’re looking at page 25, you’ll see sections 15, 11.1, 11.2, 11.3 which carry on to the next page, all the way to the bottom of that page…and those were the things that were specifically drafted by Law, Revenue, and Planning. Then on page 27, section 15 dash 11.4, which are the parts that Council Member Akers drafted. As pointed out at the meeting by Council Member Lawless, this is the consensus to help to this point.  It makes things easier and gets us to a good start.”

In summary, the first half of the proposed ordinance drafted by CM Akers:

  • Eliminates the requirement and subsequent $15 fee for mobile food vendors to update the Division of Revenue with every address where they set up;
  • Removes the requirement to obtain a Certificate of Occupancy from Building Inspection; and
  • Requires business owners to obtain a free Zoning Compliance Certificate valid for two years from the Division of Zoning and Planning to ensure retail food sales are permitted in their zone.

“There are so many facets to this, it’s unbelievable,” CM Farmer told the Committee. CM Mossotti responded, “I can imagine, by the phone calls we all have received.”

Bluegrass Food Truck Association director Sean Tibbetts, addressed the committee briefly, thanking the Work Group leadership for the progress so far, adding,

“While the opportunity for mobile food vendors to operate safe, legal, profitable businesses in Fayette County has at times been contentious to a select group of concerned parties, councilwoman Akers continued to listen to all the parties at the table and move an ordinance forward that contains improvements to the current itinerant merchant ordinance that will better enable food trucks to operate in Fayette County. It is our sincere hope from the Bluegrass Food Truck Association that the food truck work group will continue to work on the concerns presented during our work sessions to develop a complete ordinance that addresses the safety concerns presented, while also granting mobile food vendors the same rights offered to restaurateurs.”

Bob Douglas, an owner of Glenn’s Creek Brewery, spoke in favor of Lexington food trucks.

Bob Douglas, an owner of  Glenn’s Creek Brewery in Chevy Chase also addressed the committee, in support of the food truck association and a potential resolution:

“I come before you as a representative of the brick and mortar part of this equation. I’m a co-owner of two restaurants here in Lexington and I have a food truck and intend to have possibly two more. I think we need this in the city badly. Every progressive city in America has a food truck population. It doesn’t threaten my business at all. It actually adds a lot to the environment in Lexington.”

Julie Griffin, with yourtraileronline.com, next addressed the committee, expressing support of food trucks, citing “the goals of increased vibrancy, consumer choice, tax revenue, and profit to connected industries.” Her company is headquartered in Lexington and provides customized trailers to entrepreneurs in the U.S. and Canada.

“After many years of growth and success, we discovered the curious anomaly that we have no sales here in our hometown. We reached out to the Bluegrass Food Truck Association and quickly realized how difficult it is for food truck operators to work in Fayette County. We would like the Committee to consider not only the positive impact that food trucks have on a vibrant progressive community, but also the financial support that it provides for other companies, directly or indirectly, related to the industry…Lexington claims to be progressive and business-friendly, but downtown sort of seems like old world Europe. When I was working downtown at Bellini’s, I remember there were times when I was hungry, but I could barely afford to eat in the restaurant in which I worked…It’s important to remember that there are people of all incomes that live downtown. There are college students, restaurant and bar employees, and they all deserve an opportunity for choice.”

Paula Singer addressed the committee to represent Lexington’s neighborhoods and to support the draft ordinance of the Itinerant Merchant Task Force, which she served on. She applauded the Food Truck Work Group, but expressed concern that itinerant merchants cause “an increase in litter, jaywalking, loitering, noise, inappropriate signage, and in the case of the food trucks, unpleasant odors of food cooking late at night next to residential dwellings.” She lobbied for limits on distance from residential dwellings and limited operating hours.

What Council Member Farmer, the first half of the Food Truck Work Group product, presented to Committee, was approved unanimously by Economic Development to move forward for a Council vote.

Several other items in the second half of the ordinance have also reached consensus, but have not yet been presented to Economic Development or the Council, including:

  • A 15 foot distance requirement from fire hydrants, intersections, driveways and entrances when operating on public property;
  • Requirements to ensure mobile food vendors obey all nuisance laws regarding lighting, music and noise;
  • Require all mobile food vendors to supply adequate trash and recycling receptacles for customers; and
  • Ensure at least 4 feet of passable sidewalk exists when vending in public as this is the same requirement for sidewalk cafes

The next Food Truck Work Group meeting will be on March 1, 2013.

(The two-year anniversary of the formation of the Itinerant Merchant Task Force will be April 20. It was formed in 2011.)

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