by Michael Monks
|On Tuesday the Covington City Commission will vote on whether to permit food trucks to operate here. The following is the language of the zoning ordinance as explained by the City's zoning administrator in a document obtained by The River City News:
TAKE THE POLL:
TAKE THE POLL:
Section 6.34 Mobile Food Vending Service
6.34.01 Mobile Food Vending Services may be permitted only in commercial zoning districts, provided that all of the following criteria are met:
A. The mobile food vending service must be located entirely on private property and shall not be located in any required setback, sight distance triangle, buffer, or public right-of-way.
B. Any operator of a mobile food vending service must receive and display a valid zoning compliance permit from the Zoning Administrator.
C. The maximum duration of a mobile food vending service permit is for 30 days at one location, renewable up to 2 additional times, for a total period of 90 days per calendar year at a single location.
D. The operator of a mobile food vending service shall obtain, in writing, the permission of the property owner to operate on his property and shall submit a copy to Community Development
E. If the operator of a mobile food vending service is issued a notice of any municipal code violation at the location assigned for the permit, then the operator or his/her agent(s) are not eligible to renew the permit at that location for a period of one year.
F. Trash receptacles shall be provided for customers to dispose of food wrappers, food utensils, paper products, cans, bottles, food, and other such waste. Such receptacle shall be located not more than 10 feet from the mobile food vendor.
G. The hours of operation shall be between 10:00 AM and 3:30 PM
H. The event shall not locate in any minimum required parking spaces for other businesses on the site. Parking spaces may be shared with other uses on the site, unless the Zoning Administrator determines that parking congestion problems will be present on the site. The Zoning Administrator may require additional parking to alleviate the congestion. If enough parking cannot be provided, the use may not be located on the site.
I. Any person(s) so engaged shall not be relieved from complying with the provisions of this section by reason of association with any local dealer, trader, operator, merchant, organization, or auctioneer, or by conducting the mobile food vending service in connection with, as part of, or in the same name of any local dealer, trader, operator, merchant, organization, or auctioneer.
J. The mobile food vendor must meet all applicable local and state codes.
A number of questions from the community, City Staff, and prospective businesses have surfaced regarding mobile food vendors (commonly called “food trucks”). Currently, the Zoning Ordinance does not permit these vendors on private property, and the City Code of Ordinances does not permit this activity in the public right-of-way. The only time for these vendors to operate in the City of Covington is during Special Events with the required Special Events permit process. The “Food Truck Invasion” event that took place on Friday, July 27th, 2012 was permitted through the Special Event Permit process. This proposed text amendment to the Zoning Ordinance would only allow mobile food vendors on privately
owned parking lot properties per a written agreement with the property owner. This proposed text amendment will not permit mobile food vendors in the public right-of-way (sidewalks and streets).
Concern has risen regarding mobile food vendors after the recent “Food Truck Invasion” event. Many of the concerns will be addressed through the proposed use-specific standards established Section 6.34 above. The jurisdiction of zoning is only for private property, therefore the proposed language will regulate how, when, and where mobile food vendors are able to operate on only private property. Before
the mobile food vendor’s application is even reviewed, private property owner permission must be presented to the Zoning Administrator in conjunction with the submittal of a formal Commercial Zoning Permit Application ($80 one time) and Occupational License Permit Application ($50/annual). These associated fees are the exact same as any business and applicant. The Commercial Zoning Permit is valid for a period not to exceed 30 days at one location. This permit may be renewed up to two (2) additional times for that location, per calendar year. These permits, along with necessary certification from the State Health Department must be displayed at all times during operation. Should the mobile food vendor fail to
present the proper documentation, the mobile food vendor must cease operation at that location and may not operate at that location for a full calendar year.
The regulations established by proposed Section 6.34 will also regulate on-site operation of the mobile food vendor. The hours of permitted operation are between 10:00 AM up until 3:30 PM. This is to ensure that the customer base is the “grab-and-go lunch crowd” only. In addition, each truck must provide a trash receptacle for customers to dispose of food wrappers, food utensils, etc… within 10 feet of the|
vendor to prevent any littering. Also, in order to ensure the operation will not have an adverse impact on available/required parking, the mobile food vendor operation must not minimize the number of spaces below that which is required by the adopted parking schedule established by Section 7.04 of the Zoning Ordinance. This will be reviewed with the application by the Zoning Administrator. If not enough parking
can be provided, the mobile food vendor will not be permitted at that location.By introducing mobile food vendors as a permitted use in certain commercial zoning districts, with the aforementioned specific use regulations, the community will have access to an even wider variety of food choices and increased sidewalk/street/pedestrian activity. Food Cartolotgy, a study conducted by the
Urban Vitality Group out of Portland, OR, found that food carts have “significant community benefits to neighborhood livability by fostering social interactions, walkability, and by providing interim uses for vacant parcels.”
Of the eleven commercial or industrial zones established in Covington, eight would be permitted to welcome food trucks as long as the above criteria are met. (The zones are abbreviated in the document and no map is available online to pinpoint exactly where the boundaries are. However, food trucks will be able to operate within the following zones: Commercial Community, Commercial General, Central Business District, Commercial Tourist, Commercial Office, Commercial Riverfront General, Industrial Park, and Industrial Limited. They will not be permitted in Commercial Neighborhood, Commercial Riverfront Limited, or Industrial General.)
|Kim Blank, executive director of the Mainstrasse Village Association wrote at The River City News Facebook page, "The Commissioners should talk to Eric and Alex from Goodfellas regarding food trucks. They are dealing with this situation in Lexington right now and said it is not pretty."
She is correct in noting that a similar debate is unfolding in Lexington (where Goodfellas operates two other locations) as detailed in this articles and editorials:
Herald-Leader: Food Truck Vendors Share Petitions
Herald-Leader: Food Truck Vendors Hunger for City Approval
Herald-Leader: Food Truck Gathering Cooks Up Support for Mobile Food Vendors
Herald-Leader Editorial: Food Trucks: Bring 'em on Lexington
Meanwhile, in Saint Louis where yet another similar debate played out, one food truck is doing so well that it is opening its own permanent space:
Over the past week, bits of news sent ripples through the food truck streetscape. Growing pizza mini-empire Pi Pizzeria announced it was closing its St. Louis and Washington-based food trucks, while Seoul Taco — a phenomenally popular truck that just launched last year — said it would open a bricks-and-mortar restaurant in the Delmar Loop.Full story: St. Louis Today
For Seoul Taco, run by two 27-year-olds, the truck was a launching pad — a low-capital way to jump into the restaurant business.
“We feel more confident opening a restaurant now,” said David Choi, co-owner. “Our brand is out there; it's a recognized name. If we started as a restaurant, there's a lot more overhead.”
It would appear that the St. Louis food truck that started as a mobile vendor before transforming into a permanent restaurant is not alone:
For entrepreneurs who dream of opening a restaurant, it's a cheaper and less risky way to get into business. If a cart or truck is at a location where it's not doing well, it's easily driven elsewhere. But an owner with a store in a bad location is stuck — usually with a lease. Restaurant failure rates are high — studies generally put it around 30 percent in the first year of operation. The trucks themselves are great advertising for mobile or fixed locations. Trucks in New York called, simply, Pizza Truck, are bright red or a collage of psychedelic colors. Kogi trucks, which operate in Los Angeles, have big red flames painted on their sides.Full story: Associated Press
Most of this new generation of street food purveyors wants to open a restaurant someday, says Jim Ellison, a food court coordinator with the Economic Community Development Institute of Columbus, Ohio, who helps truck operators set up their businesses. "I work with nine trucks and 14 carts, and all would like to have a brick-and-mortar store."
Flirty Cupcakes started its first truck in May 2010 and added a second one that December. The $60,000 startup cost for each was significantly less than the $150,000 it took to open a bakery and restaurant in February. The low cost of operating the truck allowed owner Tiffany Kurtz to use the money she made to save up to open the store.