Food trucks to roll out in county soon

Com­mis­sion­ers vote to al­low oper­a­tions mea­sure 3-1

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By MICHAEL SYKES II msykes@somd­

Af­ter plenty of de­bate and con­tention over the last year, food trucks will fi­nally be able to make a home in Charles County.

The Charles County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers voted 3-1 to ap­prove the op­er­a­tion of food trucks in the county. Com­mis­sion­ers’ Vice Pres­i­dent Debra Davis (D) was the lone vote of dis­sent and Com­mis­sioner Bobby Rucci (D) re­cused him­self from the sub­ject as the owner of Rucci’s Ital­ian Deli & Dough­boys restau­rant in White Plains.

In 45 days, food trucks will of­fi­cially be able to

op­er­ate in the county. Com­mis­sioner Amanda Ste­wart (D) said she can­not wait to see the fu­ture of food trucks in the area. This was the first bill she orig­i­nally spon­sored, she said, so it is ex­cit­ing to see it fi­nally re­ceive ap­proval.

“I’m re­ally ex­cited,” Ste­wart said.

The food trucks will be able to op­er­ate in the county in the Wal­dorf Ur­ban Re­de­vel­op­ment cor­ri­dor, com­mer­cial mixed use ar­eas, em­ploy­ment parks, busi­ness and com­mer­cial ar­eas, and in ru­ral con­ser­va­tion zones.

The food trucks must pay $200 in per­mit­ting fees yearly and a one­time $50 in­spec­tion fee be­fore be­ing ap­proved by the county for op­er­a­tion. They are sub­ject to the same health in­spec­tion reg­u­la­tions as “brick and mor­tar” restau­rants, Charles County Plan­ning Di­rec­tor Steve Ball said.

Be­fore they vend on any prop­erty of a restau­rant owner or in a shop­ping cen­ter, Ball said, food truck op­er­a­tors must ask own­ers for per­mis­sion. Davis said she prefers it re­main that way.

“I like that,” Davis said. “Re­mem­ber, there has been some op­po­si­tion to this. We need that.”

The trucks will be per­mit­ted to op­er­ate be­tween the hours of 5 a.m. and 10 p.m. The trucks must be re­moved from any prop­erty they are op­er­at­ing in af­ter hours. They must have ac­cess to re­strooms for their staff and must op­er­ate with safe park­ing ar­eas for con­sumers with a safe ingress and egress route. Ve­hi­cles are only al­lowed a max­i­mum size of 24 feet long, 10 feet tall and 8.5 feet wide.

Nan­jima Hlemi, the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the DMV Food Truck As­so­ci­a­tion, said the changes the county made in the leg­is­la­tion are “great so far,” and this is over­all a pos­i­tive for food truck op­er­a­tors.

She did have con­cerns about food trucks op­er­at­ing in re­stricted zones, how­ever. Hlemi said the county may end up re­strict­ing where they can go by hav­ing them op­er­ate in cer­tain zones on a map — which de­feats the pur­pose of them be­ing mo­bile.

But over­all, she said, “We’re ex­cited about this leg­is­la­tion and we re­main your part­ners.”

Davis, who voted against the leg­is­la­tion, said she wanted to see a “sun­set pro­vi­sion” on the food trucks and see how reg­u­lat­ing them went af­ter “one or two” years. It would be good to look back, she said, just to see if things are work­ing out the way the county ex­pected them to.

But Com­mis­sion­ers’ Pres­i­dent Peter Mur­phy (D) said us­ing a sun­set pro­vi­sion of any kind could po­ten­tially de­ter food trucks from op­er­at­ing in the county.

“My con­cern is that if peo­ple know that it’s only go­ing to be for one or two years, it’s go­ing to be hard to get what they need to get here,” Mur­phy said.

Rather than hav­ing a sun­set pro­vi­sion, he said, the county can come back and re­visit the is­sue with­out any pro­vi­sion in place to see what changes, if any, need to be made.

Davis said she would be all right with that, but she also said a $250 fee may not be heavy enough on truck op­er­a­tors and the county may find it­self with an over­flow at some point if the fee does not in­crease.

Com­mis­sioner Ken Robin­son (D) said the vol­ume might not be there, how­ever, be­cause the mar­ket will de­ter­mine who comes into the county.

“We don’t have the same pop­u­la­tion as Wash­ing­ton [D.C.],” Robin­son said. “We won’t have to worry about be­ing over­whelmed.”

Bill Sny­der, a re­tired naval of­fi­cer who op­er­ates a food truck, said he is ex­cited to see leg­is­la­tion fi­nally pass­ing that will al­low him to op­er­ate through­out the county rather than just in In­dian Head or in La Plata.

As a re­tired of­fi­cer, Sny­der said, look­ing for some­thing to put his time into is im­por­tant. Now he has a chance to ex­pand his food truck ser­vices.

“I’m get­ting up in years and I’m look­ing for­ward to hav­ing my own lit­tle busi­ness for my­self and my fam­ily,” Sny­der said.

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