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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Urban Food Ordinances: Part I

The El Cazador "taco bus" on Governors Drive. (Photo courtesy Ashley Nichols/City of Huntsville)
By the City's count, there's at least seven food trucks scattered throughout Huntsville, from the El Cazador "taco bus" on Governors (pictured) to the Peppered Pig on South Parkway to Sugar Belle, which sells cupcakes out of a converted Army transport vehicle. All of these (except the taco bus) have begun operation in the past few years, and if other cities are any indication, we expect a lot more in the near future.

This week, an ordinance regulating mobile food vendors (e.g. food trucks) will begin to make its way through Huntsville City Hall. (This one is different than the one that was passed by the City Council last month outlining special rules for food trucks on city property in Downtown.) Save for any changes or opposition, this ordinance could take effect in late September.

Below is a summary of the proposed ordinance as it stands now.

Permitted zones: Commercial districts C-3 and above, All industrial districts.*  

A map showing zoning districts can be found at maps.huntsvilleal.gov (turn on the “zoning districts” layer)

*An attempt to allow them in Research Park zones-- except for around Bridge Street-- during lunchtime was denied by the Research Park Board, due to perceived aesthetics and the lack of public restrooms in the area.

Buffers: There will be a 100-foot buffer from the entrance of existing food establishments. This is to prevent food trucks from setting up shop in front of established “bricks-and-mortar” restaurants, possibly giving the trucks an unfair advantage and diminishing the visibility of the nearby restaurant(s).

Hours: Food trucks will be allowed to operate between 6am-10pm Sun-Wed and 6am-2am Thu-Sun.

Potties: Restrooms must be available for employees within 500 feet of the food truck, in accordance with Health Department regulations. In food truck parks, however, a "fixed" bathroom (no porta-potties) must be available for employees and patrons. 

Restricted Areas: Food trucks will not be allowed in loading zones, public rights-of-way*, or any area that would obstruct the flow of traffic for neighboring businesses.

*The only exception to this are the designated parking spots downtown where food trucks are allowed to set up shop for limited hours on Thursday-Saturday nights. Mobile food carts, like the "hot dog guys" set up around the courthouse square, are allowed downtown under separate street vendor ordinances. 

Noise: No loudspeakers will be permitted.

Lights: Artificial lighting must be provided for nighttime operations. 

You may view the entire ordinance here.

Coming up in Part II: An ordinance that will include urban farms, community gardens, and farmers’ markets, as well as guidelines for poultry in residential districts.


Unknown said...

Food trucks aren't meant to be sit-down restaurants and it sounds like the new regulations (e.g., bathroom w/in 500 ft) are meant to drive these operations away. I'm a big fan of El Cazador and the food truck concept. What precedent do planners have for implementing these restrictions?

Anonymous said...

I know several people that would stop at a food truck if it were in research park. I agree with the "Food trucks aren't meant to be sit-down restaurants" from the previous comment. It's a get it and go concept. Let them stop in the numerous spots on the side of the road in the undeveloped part of research park.

Basically that rule was put in place by some uptight person that probably doesn't even work in research park or it is beneath them to eat at a food truck.