Spitfire food truck

Spitfire food truck of Herndon

Fairfax County may not be a moveable feast, à la Paris, but it now will allow more mobile eateries to dispense cuisine to shoppers and workers.

The Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a zoning-ordinance amendment Oct. 7 that permits more widespread operation of food trucks, but limits where the vehicles may be set up and for how long.

“It’s a new and emerging dining choice and industry, something that I think we would like to have in Fairfax County,” said Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova (D).

County officials formulated the new rules after Bulova and Supervisor Linda Smyth (D-Providence) hosted a work group with various stakeholders in May 2013.

“We need to get something started here and than see how this balancing act works out,” Smyth said. “And it is a balancing act, because there already has been a lot of friction with bricks-and-mortar restaurants.”

The new rules, which took effect Oct. 8 at 12:01 a.m., are designed to ensure food trucks are accessory uses, not principal ones, at sites, county staff said. The regulations apply strictly to private property; county officials still prohibit food trucks from selling their tasty treats on public streets.

County rules previously classified food trucks as free-standing fast-food restaurants and required operators to undergo two public hearings, gain a special-exception permit from the Board of Supervisors and pay a $16,375 fee.

Under the new regulations, the vehicles’ owners must obtain an annual $100 food-truck permit, a $40 food-establishment permit from the county’s Health Department and a $35 solicitor’s license from the Department of Cable and Consumer Services.

Food-truck operators must obtain written permission from property owners to conduct business at those locations. The property owners, in turn, must obtain a one-time $100 food-truck permit and inform county officials where the mobile food dispensaries will be located on their sites.

Trucks will be allowed to operate only during sites’ normal business hours. Food-truck operators will be permitted to conduct business at multiple sites, but stay no longer than four hours at any one location, including time needed to set up and pack up their operations.

Up to three food trucks may do business at one location. Such trucks may operate in industrial or commercial zones on properties having at least 25,000 square feet of gross floor area.

Food trucks – which may be self-propelled, pushed or pulled to their operation sites – must not block sites’ entrances or exits, or their travel or fire lanes. The trucks also must not take up spaces needed to fulfill sites’ minimum parking requirements.

The area around food trucks must be kept debris-free and trash receptacles must be provided.

The Fairfax County Park Authority also allows food trucks to operate, under separate permits, at these 10 locations: Arrowbrook Park in Herndon, Baron Cameron Park in Reston, Braddock Park in Clifton, E.C. Lawrence Park in Chantilly, Lake Fairfax Park in Reston, Nottoway Park in Vienna, Oak Marr Park in Oakton and Mason District, Pine Ridge and Wakefield parks in Annandale.

County officials approved 15 food trucks and 15 food-truck locations within the last year. Officials predict about operators of such vehicles will apply for about 20 permits per year, which would be processed by existing staff members. The county likely would receive between $3,000 and $5,000 per year from such applications.

Supervisor Penelope Gross (D-Mason) said county officials have had difficulty preventing small, non-self-propelled food dispensaries – “roach coaches,” as she called them – from operating in neighborhoods where they are not allowed.

Supervisors directed that the food-truck work group should reconvene in one year to ensure the new regulations are producing the desired outcome.

“We need to be as fair as we can, but we have to start somewhere,” Smyth said.

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(2) comments

jerryrice

Increasingly more people find food truck and food carts a convenient choice. When they are hungry, they want to buy immediately something to eat from mall kiosks because the cart is near them and the food is faster prepared. Bottom line, it is easy and convenient, a perfect food option for those people who don't have time to stay at a restaurant table to order their dinner.

David Walters

These trucks are patronized by the large immigrant community that now resides in this area. I see them parked all over the place and they are mostly catering to Hispanics and the few white construction workers that are left. They were referred to as Roach Coach's in years past and for good reason.

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