The town of Culpeper is eyeing new regulations for local food trucks.
At a special work session Tuesday, the Planning Commission heard details of the proposed new rules. Such requirements could include a site plan showing each location where a food truck parks, liability insurance, sign restrictions and potential limitations on how long a food truck could remain stationary.
Currently, the town’s dozen food trucks are required to register with the town and health department.
Town Planner Salem Bush said the main safety issues potentially requiring the regulations are adequate parking on sites where food trucks remain stationary and ample access points to that site. Most of the town’s food trucks are situated in privately-owned parking lots per agreements with the lot owners.
“We’re flying by the seat of our pants at this point,” Bush said of how the new ordinance would be crafted. “We want it done in a safe way.”
Town Planning Director Charles Rapp mentioned some local food trucks that remain parked permanently, offering carports for customer shelter and picnic tables for eating, sometimes in cramped spaces where potential accidents could happen.
He noted such situations are not mobile and therefore not in line with a staff-proposed definition for mobile food vendors: a readily movable, self-contained, wheeled cart, trailer or vehicle designed and equipped for preparing, serving and/or selling food and operated at temporary locations.
Planning Commission member David Cubbage acknowledged the inconsistency, saying, “If you provide them a place to eat, it isn’t mobile.”
Town staff consulted with other localities in proposing food trucks regulations, and the Planning Commission favored the rules in place in Manassas. Among other limitations in place there, food trucks may stay only four hours a day at any one site, spanning at least an acre.
Some localities also limit how close a food truck can be located to a restaurant, a matter of competition due to the extra permitting and inspections required of eateries in buildings.
Planning commission member John Flanagan noted the one-acre requirement in town would put a lot of food trucks out of business.
Town Councilman Keith Price noted town council recently reduced the annual food truck permitting fee from $400 to $200, a reduction that could prompt more applications, he said. The councilman felt the four-hour-per-day, per site limit was pretty restrictive, and Planning Commission member John Flanagan agreed, saying it would be hard to enforce.
Town staff members said they have not received complaints about local food trucks, but that their priority is safety as the popularity of mobile vendors continues to grow. Staff members plan to develop the new ordinance as part of its year-long overhaul of the entire zoning ordinance. Any new rules regarding food trucks would first go to public hearing and require town council approval.
If adopted within the next year, the new rules would be implemented with the food truck owners as they apply for their annual permit, Rapp said.