Bel Air leaders reject expansion of town's food truck zone

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The Bel Air town commissioners nixed on Monday a proposal to expand the areas within town limits where food trucks could park and serve customers following a request made by owners of Alecraft Brewery to allow the trucks on its property in the 300 block of South Main Street.

While the amendment to Ordinance 786-18, the municipal code on itinerant dealers, peddlers and solicitors was rejected, commissioners said they still plan to look at ways to find more spaces where food trucks can operate and would like local business owners to work with those truck owners to reach an agreement.

“I’d still like to find a solution for Alecraft,” Commissioner Patrick Richards said. “As we continue to discuss that over the next couple weeks, I would love nothing more than for perhaps the business community to reach out to Alecraft directly, and solve that collectively and collaboratively so that may be we don’t have to take any further amendment changes into consideration.”

The commissioners’ unanimous decision came two weeks after a public hearing in town hall on April 16 that drew a standing room-only crowd during which opponents and supporters of an expanded food truck zone made their pleas. Owners of downtown Bel Air restaurants are concerned about tilting the playing field in favor of an industry they said does not have the same overhead costs as their brick-and-mortar businesses.

A vote on the amendment had been postponed because two commissioners were absent from the April 16 meeting.

The town permits food trucks to park along public streets in some limited locations.

The closest of these “red curb” areas to downtown are along Lee Way near the Armory and Shamrock Park, and near the Ma & Pa Heritage Trail trailhead along Ellendale, Maulsby and Williams streets.

Other red curb locations are along Gateway Drive and Blum Court near Harford Mall and the post office; West MacPhail Road near Upper Chesapeake Medical Center; Route 1 and Kelly Avenue extended (where a Chick-fil-A is planned); and along South Atwood Road near the Motor Vehicle Administration.

If it had been approved, the ordinance would have allowed food trucks to operate on private property in the 300 block of South Main Street, between Baltimore Pike and Powell Avenue, and on the town-owned Bel Air Armory property, adjoining private businesses and the municipal parking lot at Pennsylvania Avenue.

Richards said there was misunderstanding and miscommunication that the amendment would allow food trucks “anywhere in town.”

“That was never, ever the intent. The amendment was never meant to send a message to business owners that we don’t hold them in the highest esteem,” Richards said. “This was never meant to send a message that we want to artificially or arbitrarily says we want to interfere with the free market competition or provide additional competition.”

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