By Stephanie Brown | WOKV.com
About three months after he hoped to have a deal hammered out, Councilman Reggie Brown has formally filed a bill bringing new regulations to Jacksonville’s food trucks.
“I think it’s something that everyone will be able to live with,” Brown says.
Brown held several community meetings after he first brought up the idea of regulation in February. He was initially inspired to create change because of health and safety concerns he had after seeing a food trailer sitting immobile near a Jacksonville neighborhood for an extended period of time. He soon realized that there was little regulation at the City level.
“Food trucks are growing rapidly in our city,” he says.
Regulation on health compliance is done at the state level, but it is up to the City to decide when and where the food trucks can operate.
Countless food truck owners attended the meetings because they were shocked at Brown’s first proposal.
“There are a lot of legal food trucks out there, and there is a need for them,” says Up In Smoke BBQ Food Truck owner Jennifer Kline.
Many argued it would have put them out of business because of requirements like that they have bathroom access, large distance restrictions from established businesses, and bans from operating in residential and commercial areas.
“There was a lot of turmoil on the initial release,” says Amy O’Grady with Driftwood BBQ Food Truck.
Several “brick and mortar” owners came out, largely in support of the food trucks, except those who operate in Downtown.
For Downtown Jacksonville businesses, there was a concern the already small amount of foot traffic and limited hours of operation would be negatively affected by an increase in food truck business. Their concerns led Brown to break up the regulation in to three categories: city-wide, Downtown, and parks.
“I think there’s room for all of us,” O’Grady says.
City-wide, food trucks would only be restricted from commercial neighborhoods, which Brown describes as an area where a commercial business operates in very close proximity to a home, generally in some older portions of the town. Office parks and even residential catering are all allowed, with certain guidelines like property owners consent. Hours of operation would last 6am-3am and parking restrictions would keep trucks from impeding traffic or pedestrian safety.
“We were really operating under those rules anyways, even though there was nothing set in stone,” Kline says.
In Downtown, hours of operation would be unlimited under the compromise. Food truck owners pushed for that in an effort to boost public safety- they wanted to be able to provide club goers an opportunity to “sober up” before heading home.
“Definitely much needed in terms of nightlife here in Jacksonville,” Brown says.
There are distance restrictions as well that aim to help protect the established businesses in Downtown, although some brick and mortars wanted the restriction to be even greater.
Parks is also pulled out for special regulations because the City is working to better program parks, and staff are currently trying to solicit bids for food trucks interested in more semi-permanent appearances at parks.
Brown has filed the bill, but it is still facing scrutiny from the Council at large before a final vote. He hopes there will not be too much resistance because the community was actively involved in the bill-writing process.