New regulations for Balto. Co. food trucks presented

Specifics of Baltimore County's proposed food truck legislation revisions were presented Thursday at a public hearing before the county Planning Board, and several dozen restaurateurs and food truck owners gave input on the legislation.

"Food trucks are a relatively new form of food vender service that need a new set of regulations to reflect they are both mobile and stationary, while also protecting established brick-and-mortar food establishments," Donnell Zeigler, a member of the Department of Planning's community planning division.

The need for revising food truck laws stemmed from inconsistencies in the existing code, said Ziegler.

Regulations now require a mobile food vendor in Baltimore County have a state permit, a Baltimore County Huckster License and several approvals from the Baltimore County Department of Health and Environmental Health Services, Zeigler said.

The Maryland Restaurant Association wrote to Baltimore County in 2011 to request clarifications to the laws.

Since then, the Department of Planning has held several meetings with the local business community, the Maryland Mobile Food Vending Association and the restaurant association

The stakeholders agreed to two of the work group's three stated goals — defining food trucks in the county code and creating a new, exclusive permit for them. They did not reach an agreement on food truck-exclusive parking areas.

The proposed regulations now define a food truck as "a self-contained mobile vehicle that sells food from the curb side of its vehicle to customers on the curb side of a public street with the following restrictions," according to Zeigler's presentation.

Also included in the proposed regulations is a new exclusive food truck license with its own health standards and protocols; food trucks will be required to pass the same county health inspections as restaurants. They must also honor the parking time limits and be parked streetside 300 feet away from the front door of a brick-and-mortar restaurant.

In downtown Towson, that boundary effectively prohibits food trucks from setting up on York Road, and Chesapeake, Allegheny, and Pennsylvania avenues east of Washington Avenue. Parking west of Allegheny is allowed, but parking east of Washington Avenue on the other streets is prohibited because of the distance to restaurants.

Expired metered parking will result in a $50 fine, with an additional fine for remaining in spaces for longer than four hours — the same regulations other vehicles are subject to.

The parking stipulation was one of the few items that food truck operators took issue with, but otherwise, the 10 food truck operators in attendance at the hearing were happy with the changes.

"I support the draft proposals as both necessary ... and also as an encouragement to economic growth," Tony Richardson, co-owner of Iced Gems Bakery in Reisterstown and its two food trucks.

Local restaurant owners, especially those from Towson at Thursday's hearing, took issues with some aspects of the new regulations, including losing parking spaces to food trucks to the 300-foot distance from restaurants, which they say is not far enough away. All wanted the new food truck legislation to be fair to brick-and-mortar restaurants, which have considerable overhead.

"I don't have a problem with food trucks, but I'd hate to see them outside our establishment," Brian Recher, whose family owns the Towson Tavern, Rec Room, and former Recher Theatre space, said.

The proposed legislation will be discussed again at a full Planning Board meeting on July 18, and would need to be passed by the County Council to become law.

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