Change on menu for mobile food vendors

By Tom Joyce -

Mobile food vendors could be plying their culinary wares in more areas of Mount Airy under changes now under consideration by city officials.

Presently, such units — defined variously by city regulations as vehicle-mounted food establishments that go from place to place, sidewalk carts or street-based food trucks — are restricted to certain business zones, permitted with special requirements.

These include the B-1 (Central Business), B-2 (General Business) and B-4 (Highway Business) zones.

The Mount Airy Planning Board has directed that to be broadened by also including parts of town zoned for industrial use (M-1), the B-3 (Neighborhood Business) district and B-5, the Medical Business zone — all non-residential zoning districts here.

Those changes stem from recent inquiries to members of the city planning staff concerning permissible locations for mobile food vendors within Mount Airy’s zoning jurisdiction.

“I think we’re just starting to get more requests,” City Manager Barbara Jones said of why the proposal to expand the allowable locations came about.

“Where they can’t and can’t be, it was starting to be an issue,” Jones added, which led to the planning board directive to amend the zoning regulations.

The matter is now in the hands of the Mount Airy Board of Commissioners, which on Thursday voted to set a public hearing on the proposal for its next meeting, on March 17 at 7 p.m. in the Municipal Building.

After citizens are allowed to weigh in on whether they support or oppose it, the commissioners can either approve or reject the proposal or OK it with modifications.

In addition to expanding the permissible territories for mobile food vendors, the proposal calls for tweaking the rules governing those temporary-use operations:

• Vendors would still be required to have a current permit from the health department (with the exception of ice and ice cream vendors, which the department doesn’t regulate), but no city privilege license, which is mandated now. They also would still be required to operate no closer than 100 feet from the entrance of any restaurant.

• Mobile vendors would be explicitly prohibited from residential-use lots.

• Street or sidewalk vending units would have to be removed from all permitted locations at the close of business each night.

• No more than three mobile food vendors could be permitted for a single parcel of land at any given time.

Other existing requirements are to be maintained under the proposal, such as making arrangements for suitable garbage disposal and site cleanups.

Also, special events recognized by the city during which mobile food vendors are permitted would not be subject to restrictions, with the same applying to non-profit fundraising events of five days or less.

Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.

By Tom Joyce

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