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City Planning Commission Defers Vote on Food Truck Ordinance

January 8, 2013

Operating a food truck in Charlottesville is more complicated than one might think, as evidenced by the City Planning Commission's decision Tuesday to defer a vote to allow food trucks to set up on private property.

The Lunchbox Express is one food truck that could benefit from such an ordinance. The Lunchbox, which has a storefront at Market Street and Meade Avenue in Charlottesville, actually began as a food truck.

"When we first started, there was one, maybe two others," said Joseph Young, owner of Around the World Enterprises, which operates the restaurant and food truck.

With the spring and summer festivals months away, it's a quiet time for the food truck business.

"This is our down time, where we'd normally just be sitting idle," Young said. "It's cold. Not too many people are out and about in this weather."

But it doesn't have to be that way. The Charlottesville City Planning Commission considered a new ordinance Tuesday night to allow food trucks to set up on private property, like parking lots.

"I would just like to create an opportunity for food trucks to appear and flourish in an already abundant foodie locality," zoning administrator Read Brodhead said.

"This would open up a lot of revenues, not only for us, but a lot of other food trucks in Charlottesville, too," Young said.

Commissioners, though, raised issue with the ordinance as presented. They want guidelines included for when trucks can operate, what they can sell and if they can offer seating. They deferred the vote until a future meeting.

"I don't want to over-regulate one bit, but I also want to make sure that all our policies are as exact as possible," Brodhead said.

"We're paying taxes, we're creating revenue for the city," Young said. "People enjoy it and it's something fairly new in Charlottesville."

City staff say a number of potential on-the-move businesses want to set up shop. The city's lack of an ordinance allowing food trucks is a speed bump.

"We're small business owners trying to make a dollar, trying to make a living," Young said. "There are too many road blocks, in my opinion. It shouldn't be this complicated."

City staff will present a revised ordinance proposal to the planning commission at a future meeting. The ordinance will then move on to city council for consideration.

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