Food trucks to roll out in county soon
Commissioners vote to allow operations measure 3-1
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.