Smithfield Planning Director Stephen Wensman admits the Town of Smithfield has been in violation of their own Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) when it comes to the location and operation of food trucks. The Smithfield Planning Board and planning staff recently presented a proposed ordinance update to the Smithfield Town Council for review at the June 4 monthly meeting.
Wensman said food trucks are currently only permitted in the B-3 zoning district. Recently, a request was made for a temporary event permit for a food truck in the O/I district and it was denied. The planning staff determined the Parks & Recreation Department routinely has food trucks and slushy trucks operating in town parks and in the downtown area, a violation since they are in the O/I district.
Food trucks have been permitted at various town events like the Ham & Yam Festival, but technically that is a violation under the current UDO. Wensman said this caused the Planning Department to review all of their food truck regulations. The review prompted the planning board to request the Council allow food trucks in all commercial districts to clear up any confusion.
During questioning from the town council, Wensman said the new ordinance would not limit the number of food trucks at special events and flea markets. That drew concern from Mayor Andy Moore who said for the last 3 months his telephone has been ringing constantly with complaints about a flea market in town that current has food trucks. While at church on a recent Sunday, Moore said three people complained to him about issues at the flea market.
Mayor Moore said he was concerned the broadening of the ordinance would allow more food trucks at flea markets. Wensman countered saying food trucks are treated as a vendor of the flea market and fall under the flea markets permit.
Mayor Pro Tem Travis Scott expressed concern the ordinance revisions fails to create a buffer for food trucks that could potentially sell alcohol in front of churches. Scott also questioned if the revisions would create an influx of food trucks at the annual 301 Yard Sale.
Councilman David Barbour questioned if a special use permit could be required from food truck operators before they sale alcoholic beverages as a way to control the location and hours of operation.
At the request of Mayor Pro Tem Scott, a vote on the amended food truck ordinance was postponed until July until the planning director can obtain more information about the potential impacts on flea markets and churches.
Under the proposed changes, food trucks would see the duration of their permits extended from 20 to 90 days per calendar year. Food trucks would be required to be at least 100 feet from the front door of a restaurant during business hours of the restaurant. The ordinance would also be changed to allow trucks within 5 feet of a public sidewalk.
Additionally, small sandwich board signs that could display their menu would be permitted under the UDO update. The area in which food trucks must keep the surrounding property clean will also be extended under the proposed changes.