Food truck business looking to pull up soon in Nederland

Published 12:16 am Friday, December 13, 2019

NEDERLAND — In all likelihood, food trucks will be allowed to legally operate in Nederland beginning Jan. 1; however, hungry customers excited for the culinary trend might not see as much action as some envision.

Nederland Planning and Zoning Commissioners recommended approval of a 12-month pilot program for food truck operation this week, setting up a final approval vote Monday by City Council members.

If approved, food trucks will be able to begin operation in a matter of weeks if they meet city guidelines.

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Food trucks would have to be granted a temporary permit tied to an existing business establishment that is promoting or advertising a special event.

Temporary permits would be available no more than 12 times during the calendar year, no more than once a month and for a three-day period maximum.

A Jefferson County Health Department permit is required, and food trucks would only be allowed in commercial and industrial zoning districts.

They would not be allowed to park overnight and cannot be within 50 feet of a residential structure or 100 feet of the primary entrance of an operating restaurant without written permission from the restaurant.

Permits would only be granted to local businesses or food truck operators with a homestead exemption in Nederland.

Building Official George Wheeler said when potential applicants say they are having a special event or sale, he is not going to get into a bickering match about the definition of a special event.

“They can only have it so many times a year, so it’s not worth creating a battle over that,” he told zoning commissioners.

Commission Chairman Buzzy Mitchell said it seems odd that a business would bring in a food truck for a grand opening or special event and then make customers buy “their hamburgers.”

“Most of the time you could just have a caterer at no permit bring in food and have food available,” he said. “It strikes me as tough to put a truck out there and charge people for it.”

Zoning Commissioner Chad Womack noted they were just approving a pilot program, something he hopes leads to more food truck allowances.

“I think we should allow it,” he said. “I want to see one day where the new Heritage Festival parking lot is for food trucks with some picnic tables or in front of Eckerd’s, which hasn’t been rented out in 17 years. There is no reason to vote against it as long as they keep it clean.”

Planning and Zoning commissioners also asked if the proposed program would allow food trucks to operate in residential neighborhoods during parties.

That would be allowed, according to city officials.

City Manager Christopher Duque said he does not see a distinction with a food truck preparing food on site at a party versus having it prepared and brought to the party.

“As long as nobody just drove by and said, ‘hey, I’m going to buy a hamburger,’” Duque said. “That would be mobile vending.”

Duque also said ice cream trucks would be allowed because they are not fixed.

“An ice cream truck doesn’t want to go down a commercial street; they want to go down residential streets,” he said. “The (food truck) zoning right now is prohibited just to the commercial and industrial zone districts.

“I think ice cream trucks could become a conversation down the road, then again, in 10-plus years that I have been here, we have never been approached by an ice cream truck.”