By Contributor | The Knoxville Focus
The City of Knoxville’s Office of Business Support has gathered extensive public feedback and finalized a proposed permanent ordinance regulating food trucks. City Council is scheduled to discuss the proposed ordinance at its March 1 meeting.
After an almost two-year successful experience with a pilot program for food trucks, the permanent Mobile Food Unit (MFU) ordinance was drafted late last year. Public comment was solicited, and thoughtful feedback from citizens has prompted a series of amendments to the proposed ordinance.
The final version of the proposed ordinance is posted on the City’s website at knoxvilletn.gov/mobilefood. Questions or comments may be emailed to Patricia Robledo, the City’s Business Liaison, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The pilot program designated times and specific zones in downtown Knoxville where food trucks could operate. Mobile food vendors also have been allowed to set up, with the owners’ approval, in private parking lots in industrial and commercial districts and during special events.
“Food trucks are an appealing option – a fun amenity that Knoxvillians seem to enjoy,” Robledo said. “The pilot program was a perfect opportunity to explore best practices, monitor operations and evaluate feedback before presenting City Council with a permanent ordinance.”
The permanent ordinance, which would replace the regulations set up for the pilot program, continues to allow mobile food vendors to operate in similar fashion – plus, it expands the program to allow food trucks in office parks and in other districts but under certain closely-regulated conditions.
For example, while operating, a MFU must adhere to a 100-foot setback from the boundary of any residential property. The allowable hours of operations also are regulated; those hours of operation vary, based on the zoning of the property where the MFU is operating.
Another change in the proposed permanent ordinance: Permit fees are being reduced. The pilot program included a tiered permitting fee system; MFUs operating only on private property paid $200 annually, and those operating on private property and in designated zones in the public right-of-way paid $400 annually. Under the proposed ordinance, all MFUs will pay an initial $200 fee and an annual $50 renewal fee.
Robledo said she believes most stakeholders will view the proposed ordinance as a good guideline for assuring safe and reasonable operation of Mobile Food Units while also allowing MFU vendors the opportunity to expand into open spaces, commercial areas and office parks where many Knoxvillians are eager to welcome the easier access to healthy food and a broader variety of choices.
“We’re pleased that so many people have shared their ideas and suggested ways to improve the Mobile Food Unit ordinance,” she said. “We listened carefully and worked diligently to strike what we believe is the proper balance between preserving the buffers to neighborhoods and allowing MFUs to expand and set up in appropriate settings.”
Since the City launched its Mobile Food Vendor Pilot Program in April 2014, 26 food trucks have completed the application and inspection process.
Robledo has met with members of the Community Forum group and with the Neighborhood Advisory Council to discuss possible amendments to the proposed ordinance. In addition, Robledo has gathered input from food truck vendors, the Knoxville Mobile Restaurant Association, and restaurant, business and community leaders. Many of the suggested amendments from the various stakeholders have been incorporated into the current proposed ordinance.
In addition to the proposed ordinance, visit knoxvilletn.gov/mobilefood for a copy of the MFU permit application; proposed rules and locations for MFU operation in City parks; a list of Frequently Asked Questions; and responses to public comments from the Office of Business Support.