Good news for food-truck aficionados: The Fairfax City Council has agreed to go forward with a pilot program that would allow their operation on city-owned property.
Currently, food trucks offer their wares during special events and in the city’s parks. For example, they’ve proven to be a big hit with customers attending gatherings such as the Fairfax Fall Festival and Rock the Block.
But food-truck operators want to do more. They’d like to be able to operate, as well, on city-owned property – including rights-of-way – outside of the parks. So the City Council discussed the possibility during its Jan. 3 work session.
Community Development and Planning Director Brooke Hardin said Fairfax has received a specific request from a food-truck operator interested in operating at 10367 Main St., which is a city-owned parking lot that was formerly an Amoco gas station. But authorization to operate on a city-owned parcel requires the city’s consent and approval, in addition to compliance with the provisions of the Zoning Ordinance.
“At our pool, there’s a big line for the food truck when it comes. [This idea] has challenges, but it’s an exciting opportunity. Maybe a pilot program for city-owned property would make sense.” — Councilman Jeff Greenfield
According to zoning regulations effective Oct. 1, 2016, food trucks are permitted as accessory uses in certain districts zoned commercial and industrial. Permit approval is subject to conditions regarding location, number of trucks per parcel, hours of operation, and operations and maintenance.
For instance, said Hardin, “Along Fairfax Boulevard and Main Street, and in industrial areas, food trucks can currently operate, subject to city ordinances. And Parks and Rec has issued permits to ice-cream trucks in the parks.”
But rights-of-way are regulated by the City Code. And as of now, the chapter dealing with traffic and vehicles doesn’t permit food trucks to operate on city streets in business districts.
So making a change to allow them to vend outside of parks or on designated streets in the city’s rights-of-way would require revisions to city regulations and policies. It might also necessitate the creation of specific guidelines for the administration of a food truck program on city-owned land.
Councilwoman Janice Miller asked if meals tax or BPOL taxes are required for food trucks. Hardin said food trucks must have business licenses and their owners must pay the city’s meals tax.
Miller also asked if city businesses having food trucks would get preference, and Economic Development Director Chris Bruno said it could be possible. Meanwhile, he added, “We’ve heard interest from six or seven food trucks.”
“At our pool, there’s a big line for the food truck when it comes,” said Councilman Jeff Greenfield. “[This idea] has challenges, but it’s an exciting opportunity. Maybe a pilot program for city-owned property would make sense.”
Bruno also noted that a food truck was currently operating outside an office building in the Home Depot parking lot at 3251 Old Lee Hwy. He said it was on private property and was there during Friday lunchtimes and on Saturday mornings and afternoons.
“We need to be careful about parking on city streets,” said Councilwoman Ellie Schmidt. “I’d recommend a pilot program.”
Agreeing, Councilman Michael DeMarco said, “I’m concerned about food trucks taking up parking spaces in lots and on streets. But we should be able to have food trucks during special events when the streets are closed.”
Then-Mayor Steve Stombres said Fairfax’s “brick-and-mortar restaurants have made an investment in the city, so I don’t want us to create a [situation] where it makes it harder for them to survive. I think we should proceed cautiously.”
The council then reached consensus on moving ahead with a pilot program, and Hardin said he’d develop the guidelines and bring them back to the council for its approval.