Montgomery city officials continue to debate the regulation and operation of food trucks in the city.
Assistant City Administrator Dave McCorquodale presented a packet providing revisions to the vendor ordinance for mobile food units, including their hours of operation and updated definitions on the differences between a food establishment and food truck.
Permanent food trucks, McCorquodale explained during the Tuesday night council meeting, are parked in food truck parks and are subject to the same regulations as restaurants, or food establishments, in the city.
Mobile food units are defined in the packet as, “a vehicle mounted, self or otherwise propelled, self-contained food service operation, designed to be readily movable.”
Some of these guidelines regarding the operation of food trucks have been discussed in workshops with city staff members.
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During the meeting, City Council further discussed the differences between mobile and parked food trucks.
Mayor Sara Countryman said the definitions provided in the packet still leave room for uncertainty.
“This is not sealed tight, and there’s still ambiguity in this and that’s what we have going on now,” Countryman said.
Countryman expressed disappointment, and said that other cities in the area like Conroe have “air tight” definitions and regulations for food trucks.
During the discussion, McCorquodale recommended the council “establish a time period that constitutes mobility.” He noted this is one of the three fundamental questions that required a definite answer in previous workshops on this topic.
The time period in the packet states that mobile food units can not be parked on the same site for longer than 48 hours, or “two consecutive calendar days.”
Councilwoman Julie Davis suggested prolonging this time period to more than two days but less than seven.
“It is burdensome and laborious to move these trailers I can only imagine,” Davis said.
She also pointed out the urgency of defining these rules and putting together an ordinance due to the upcoming fall festival taking place Saturday, in which many food trucks will be parked on the streets of downtown.
Councilman Kevin Lacy suggested that the mobile food truck ordinance have a parking limit of six days. Later, in the more than hourlong discussion, Countryman raised concerns about what would happen to the mobile food trucks after the proposed new six-day time limit.
“What’s the point of stating days if we don’t have (regulations for) when you can come or where you can go,” she asked.
In general, council members raised concerns about food trucks being parked all over the city without solid regulations in place. Davis, who has an RV parked in her driveway, said that without clear guidelines, she could turn her trailer into a food truck as well.
The mayor also brought up the issue of restrooms for mobile food trucks who don’t have those facilities on their own. She and McCorquodale deliberated on whether or not food truck emplooyes form a partnership with neighboring restaurants to use their restrooms.
Council members proposed that bathrooms be located within 400 feet from food truck employees instead of the original 300-feet rule. Members reached consensus on this topic to allow for flexibility for food trucks that have already been established in the city.
Toward the end of the meeting, McCorquodale said his team will continue bringing back suggestions for the council until everyone can reach a consensus.
“I don’t know that I’m coming back with a final final version for you guys,” he said. “I feel like there is still uncertainty that you guys are working through and, likewise, so are we.”