Responding to a request from the operators of the town's newest microbrewery and taproom, Bel Air town officials are considering expanding the downtown zone where food trucks are permitted to include part of the 300 block of South Main Street.
Proposed changes to the town code's chapter on itinerant dealers, peddlers and solicitors that would expand the mobile vendors and food trucks zone and make some additional revisions, were introduced by the Board of Town Commissioners at the most recent town meeting held on April 2.
They will be the subject of a public hearing at this Monday's town meeting, beginning at 7:30 p.m. at Town Hall at 39 N. Hickory Ave. The commissioners also will hold hearings at the same time on proposed revisions to the code chapters on trees and parking regulations, also introduced April 2.
The food truck changes were prompted, in part, by a request from the owners of AleCraft Brewery, which began brewing and selling beer in a portion of the Preston's Building, at 319 S. Main St. earlier this year, according to Director of Administration Michael Krantz.
The pending legislation would expand what the code refers to as the "blue zone," which allows sales from food trucks on public and private properties, to include the 300 block of South Main between Baltimore Pike and Powell Avenue. There would be no food truck parking along the street.
The blue zone also would be expanded to include the Bel Air Armory property, to include Frederick Ward Park and the Armory Marketplace beyond the main building. The ban on food truck parking in front of the Armory on Main Street would not change — trucks already can park along Lee Way between Main Street and Shamrock Park.
People can buy beer and drink it on the premises at AleCraft, but the business does not sell food, Krantz said.
If the change is approved, he said, food trucks could park in the Preston's Parking lot to serve customers of AleCraft, which also has a request pending before the town to construct an outdoor dining bar.
Krantz likened the situation to that of the town's other taproom, Independent Brewing Co. in the 400 block of North Main Street, which opened in late 2015. Food Truck parking is permitted at Independent and several nearby properties, along with some adjacent streets, but not along North Main.
But where Independent does not have any restaurants or food carryout places close by, AleCraft's neighbors include Bird's Nest Carryout, Looney's Pub North and Margherita's Pizza, all in the 300 block of South Main.
On the night the ordinance change was introduced, Krantz said he was in the process of notifying owners of those establishments what could be approved.
"We'll have to see what happens at the hearing," he said.
Phone messages left Wednesday and Thursday for the owners of Looney's and Bird's Nest seeking comment by The Aegis were not returned.
Krantz acknowledged there could be friction over the latest change, as occurred in 2013 when town officials revamped the peddlers section of the code to specifically designate where food trucks and other mobile vendors could operate.
That provoked some outcry from traditional business owners, particularly restaurants and carryouts. Town officials also said, however, that there was a growing demand for food trucks, particularly during outdoor events. As the code was amended then, rules were added as to when and where the trucks could operate and making them subject to getting a town license.
Krantz recalled first coming to work for the town right at the time the food truck controversy was in full bore. "They held the hearing on the ordinance the night of my first town meeting," he said.
Other changes proposed to the peddlers chapter include shifting all responsibility for licensing and regulating food trucks and mobile vendors to the director of administration, including decisions on what days they can't operate, such as July 4 and during the Festival for the Arts in the fall, unless sanctioned by the coordinators of those or other public events.
Tree, parking code changes
The chapter of the code pertaining to trees is a wholesale revision and update of the ordinance originally enacted in 1992, according to town officials, following a year-long review by the town's Tree Committee.
The parking chapter changes addresses ongoing problems the town has with inconsistencies in fire lane designations and signage, as well as with people parking in fire lanes or too close to hydrants, according to town police and public works officials.
Fire lanes are required in front of places of assembly or dwellings with more than two dwelling units, according to the proposed ordinance, which transfers authority from "a fire official" to the director of public works for designating the lane and seeing the proper signage is installed.
Another change would give parking enforcement personnel the same authority as police officers to ticket vehicles illegally parked in fire lanes or in restricted areas around hydrants.