Balt. Co. Planning Board passes new food truck laws

A set of regulations that would establish specific laws for food trucks in Baltimore County was unanimously passed by the county Planning Board Thursday, which now sends the legislation onto the County Council for codification.

"We'll see how it goes with the council," Willy Dely, president of the Maryland Mobile Food Vendors Association, said. "Overall, that's what we expected. We think it's a good compromise for food trucks, brick-and-mortar restaurants and for our customers."

In addition to outlining in county code the definition of a food truck, the proposed legislation focuses on designating where food trucks are allowed to park and how long they can park in street-side spaces.

According to a presentation given to the Planning Board at a public hearing June 20, food trucks are defined 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."

That designation removes them from a previous classification which includes door-to-door salesmen and hot dog cart vendors.

The legislation was crafted as a result of several meetings with Department of Planning staff, restaurateurs and food truck owners.

Food truck vendors and the Maryland Restaurant Association asked the county in 2011 to clarify the laws, because, as the two parties said, current regulations are prohibitive to food truck vendors and frustrating to restaurant owners.

Restaurant owners, especially those in Towson, said the current law's guideline for a 100-foot buffer zone from brick-and-mortar restaurants was too close.

Food truck operators said they couldn't set up, serve food and break down in the time allotted on county parking meters. Currently, the food trucks are subject to the same meter limits as any other vehicle parked on Towson streets.

During the June 20 hearing, some restaurant owners lobbied that the newly proposed 300-foot buffer zone from established restaurants should be extended to 500 feet. The Planning Board agreed to 300 feet.

In downtown Towson, under the new regulations, that stipulation would prohibit food trucks from setting up on York Road, and Chesapeake, Allegheny and Pennsylvania avenues east of Washington Avenue. Parking west of Washington Avenue near the courthouses is permitted, but the brick-and-mortar restaurants east of Washington Avenue prohibit food trucks from parking on those streets.

The issue of parking time limits was also addressed by the legislation. Like all other vehicles parked for longer than the one-hour limit, food trucks will be assessed a $50 fine. A second $50 fine will be levied if the food truck stays in one spot for longer than four hours. That provision placates restaurant owners who were concerned the food trucks could set up for an entire day.

Two amendments were also made to the proposed legislation. The Planning Board stipulated that a food truck that is issued more than five violations of the parking regulations in one year could have its county license revoked.

In the second amendment, a clause that allowed restaurant owners to bypass the buffer zone and give food truck vendors permission to park in front of their restaurant was removed.

The proposed legislation must now be presented to and approved by the Baltimore County Council, though no timeline for a vote has been set.

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