Think Alexandria is about to be overrun by food trucks? Think again.
Draft regulations now under consideration by the Parks and Recreation Commission would limit the pilot program for food trucks to parks and recreation centers that have 10 or more parking spaces. Only three would be allowed at one place at a time, and they would be limited to vending for four hours at a time. The parking lots must be paved, and the spaces must be designated. Although the city has more than 100 parks and recreation centers, only 15 sites would qualify under the draft regulations now under consideration. The Alexandria City Council is expected to review the recommendation next week. Food trucks could start vending as early as July 1.
"I'm not sure how many food trucks would apply to be part of this because the volume might not be there for the vendors to make this profitable," said James Spengler, director of Recreation, Parks, and Cultural Activities. "But that's why we're having a pilot program."
Food trucks have been a controversial topic in Alexandria, where advocates and opponents clashed in a daylong public hearing in May. Advocates say food trucks will give consumers more choices, allowing entrepreneurs to use the free market to dictate which food vendors are successful and which ones are not. But opponents say restaurants would be at a disadvantage because they would have to deal with special-use permit restrictions and sign limitations that would not apply to food trucks. City Council members ended up creating a pilot program that would be limited to parks and recreation centers.
"I think at this point, there's a certain sense of relief that we don't have to worry about it for 15 months," said Yvonee Weight Callahan, former president of the Old Town Civic Association. "This gives everybody a chance to see how it works."
THE PILOT PROGRAM is expected to provide city officials with data to use in evaluating the regulations of food trucks in a way that would minimize negative consequences for residents and ensure safety for drivers and pedestrians. It would also create an opportunity for food truck vendors to introduce themselves to Alexandria residents and give city officials an idea of what would be needed to regulate the new industry.
"This is a very positive first step," said Che Ruddell-Tabisola, executive director of the DMV Food Truck Association. "What the ordinance does most significantly is it creates a way for food trucks to get licensed and permitted and operate in Alexandria, and that's a terrific accomplishment."
Under the draft regulations, vendors must first receive a $125 food truck vendor permit that would last through the end of this year. Then there would be a $90 annual fee city and staff health inspectors plus the one-time fee of $200 from the Alexandria Health Department. That's in addition to the $250 annual business license fee plus the $143 fee to operate a propane tank for six months. After all of those fees have been paid, vendors would need to find a city park or recreation center with at least 10 parking spaces.
"Some don't qualify on that basis because they have smaller lots," said Spengler. "So if you had food trucks in there you would have no place for the public to park. That was the reason for trying to come up with the size."
THE REGULATIONS will set rules that may end up shaping the success or failure of the pilot program. If they are too restrictive, food truck vendors may stay away altogether. Those who participate in the program will end up shaping the data collected by city officials that will be used to craft regulations for on-street parking next year. As they are currently written, the rules will open up food trucks at a handful of places during a narrow window of time.
"All the food trucks are going to want to go to Old Town Pool," said Gina Baum, member of the Parks and Recreation Commission. "And they'll all want to be there from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m."
- Potential Food Truck Locations
- Armistead Boothe Park
- Ben Brenman Park
- Buchanan Park/Old Town Pool
- Chinquapin Park
- Eugene Simpson Park
- Ewald Park
- Four Mile Run Park
- Joseph Hensley Park
- Luckett Field/Schuyler Hamilton Jones Skateboard Park
- Stevenson Park
- Witter Recreation Fields
- Charles Houston Recreation Center
- Chinquapin Park Recreation Center and Aquatics Facility
- Cora Kelly Recreation Center
- Nannie J. Lee Recreation Center