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Local News

Pensacola Food Truck Ordinance Goes To Planning Board

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Food trucks in Pensacola could see some changes to how they operate in the next few days, compliments of the City Council.

The City Council last week passed an ordinance governing the trucks. It now goes to the planning board before it takes effect, likely next month. It would allow food trucks to operate at any public parking spots in the city except for about 15 blocks between Garden and Main Streets, from Baylen to Tarragona Street.

The current rule requires the vehicles to operate in what’s called a duly established marketplace. Therein lies the legal rub, but Mayor Grover Robinson is hoping for fast action.

“I think what we’ve said for a long time is we’re excited to see us actually getting our law and ordinance consistent with our practice,” the mayor said. “And I think along those lines we’ve been working with legal and with Councilman [Casey] Jones. So I think it’s hopefully going to produce something we want.”

Speaking at his weekly news conference, Robinson questioned the council’s decision to send the matter to the city’s planning board, which he says appears as an “unnecessary delay,” and a burden on the Land Development Code.

“It creates problems for us in our LDC; it shouldn’t be there no matter what it is,” said Robinson. “I don’t think it’s really relevant to the LDC. I would have hoped Council could have started that process and not worry about delaying it; but I am excited to see some movement upon getting us a rule that is consistent with what’s going on”

For now, officials are conducting an educational program about food trucks — what the rule is now, and what rules are being proposed about their operation. That’s being handled by the city’s Code Enforcement Department.

“These are also the areas where we were having the most problems with other [restaurant] owners in that area,” Robinson said. “I’ve been very clear up here that I think there are areas where food trucks are very productive. Let’s get our ordinance consistent with what our practice is; we have not fined anybody — we have educated people to what the rules are.”

Part of the goal of crafting a new food truck ordinance, says the mayor, is making enforcement easy.

“And I think that makes it easier going forward; and there isn’t an ability for somebody that, for a few dollars, come up and figure out and solve the problem and move right back in,” he said. “We’ve just got to be careful about how we solve it, and I think we need to do something that’s more longer-lasting.”

Bottom line, says Robinson, is that if food trucks truly are an asset to the city, as many believe, the ordinances covering them should reflect that.

“Rather than just say, ‘hey, we got crazy rules on the books, we just want you to act this way,’” he said. “There’s no reason our rules can’t actually say what we want to do. There’s no reason we can’t do that.”

The main bone of contention appears to be having the trucks inside Pensacola’s Historic District.

“One of the thing I saw very clearly, whether it was Savannah or New Orleans, they don’t allow it in their historic areas,” said the mayor. “My understanding is from the Historic Trust — they would really prefer not to have that in our historic area. It just so happens to fit — that’s the area where we also have some of the problems with restaurants.”

Because the land development code is in place to regulate the food trucks, a hearing before the city's planning board is mandatory and that’s leading to the tentative October passage.