(Seguin) -- The Seguin City Council took steps Tuesday toward creating official guidelines for an increasingly popular type of food service. The city had no official ordinance on the books in regards to the operation of food trucks, but the council approved the first reading of a new ordinance.
Planning and Codes Director Pamela Centeno says staff spent several hours developing the proposed ordinance. She says they studied what worked in some other cities and created something that would work here in Seguin.
"When we looked at those different cities, we really just didn't want to adopt something that another city had taken. We really wanted to look at it. I even had the planning and zoning intern help us pull a bunch of research and jotted down the regulations that we've seen. Maybe, we've come up with an ordinance and it is as I said 'on the more relaxed side,'" said Centeno
Centeno says one of the things they first had to do was decide a definition for food trucks, and they created a distinction between actual food trucks versus trailers that are pulled behind a separate vehicle. She says they also looked at creating a new land use designation that would allow special areas to be created for multiple food trucks, or a larger area for food trucks to set up.
"A food truck is a self propelled vehicle. The big thing here to look at is the difference between a food truck versus a food trailer. They're two very different things. At this time, we're looking more at food trucks. A food trailer has to be pulled by another vehicle, can take more space, often are left there and become an enforcement issue with that trailer just being left there for an extended period of time. So at this time, staff is proposing just to look at food trucks. We've also defined a food truck park, which is an area on private property designated to accommodate two or more food trucks. So follow up to tonight's ordinance will be the next planning and zoning meeting. We'll need to introduce the food truck park as allowed land use," said Centeno.
She also says the food trucks will be allowed on both private property and public streets if the truck can fit into a regular parking space.
"On private property, we recommend that food trucks shall not be parked on any property either zoned for or occupied by a single family or a two family residence which is a duplex. We're also recommending that it shall not be parked on the property without the permission of the property owner -- very specifically stating in there that food trucks must comply if the property owner themselves ask them to leave. Public streets and this will include the downtown area, which is why we include Kyle in all of our discussions -- we're recommending that food trucks will not be allowed to park on a public street designated as a no parking zone, of course, which is a given, but something that most of the ordinances did call out. Then also that a food truck not be parked out on a public street in front of a property zoned -- I mean occupied by a single family or a duplex structure to prevent someone from parking in a residential neighborhood and just selling to the public," said Centeno.
The ordinance not only defines where the trucks can be located, but also places a ten-hour limit per property, per day. Centeno says they debate the length of time allowance quite a bit, but finally decided that they needed to provide the truck operators with enough time to really make it worth their while to set up.
"The intent behind this is to allow them to set up and to catch possibly the lunch traffic and the noon traffic or also downtown and some of the establishments that don't serve food. The ones where it has been really popular in conjunction with the event is in front of our taverns if they set up at the end of the day at five o'clock and let them stay until their business is open into the later hours -- (They'll) need a little bit longer of a duration. So a three or four hour limit will not allow them to serve their evening traffic," said Centeno.
Local resident Kenneth Ball asked several questions about the proposed ordinance. He asked about the trucks ability to set up outside local large businesses, like Caterpillar. He also wanted to know what, if any, amenities the city would be offering to the truck vendors.
"When you are talking about a food truck what is the limit and size of the food truck and when you are asking for the privilege and everything -- will there be any type of electricity provided? Because that's always a concern of a food truck and because if you don't have the electricity, you're going to have to contend with a generator. What are the regulations of a generator if you don't have the electricity available?" said Ball.
Centeno says the city would not provide things like electric utilities for the trucks, and the operator would be responsible for powering the truck with a generator, or some other power supply. She says the rules would allow for set up on private property as long as the truck operator was invited.
"On private property, you will need their permission to go on so if Caterpillar wanted to allow a food truck to come onto their property and sell to the public -- if they have their permission, yes. They couldn't actually go onto the property without that. The streets nearby, as long as it's not a street where it's a no parking zone -- you know a lot of the larger highways because it's a speed limit are no parking. So they have to comply with the regular regulations for parking as far as on those streets where it's no parking. Other than that, if it's not on a residential area, if it's side street, so if it's one of those city streets going into Caterpillar, parking on the side of that then yes, you will be able to park there," said Centeno.
Robert Garcia is a fairly new resident of the city of Seguin. He told the council that he recently moved here from the Arlington area, and he was excited about the city moving forward with the ordinance. He says it's something that he hopes to be able to take advantage of in the future.
"They would help out the city a lot. I just moved here from Arlington, Texas about six months ago. We had events like downtown here at the park, food trucks all the time. Like someone was saying earlier, you're not going to go park next to, if someone is selling tacos. I'm not going to go park next to him where he sell tacos and just try to beat him out. That's kind of dumb," said Garcia.
The ordinance was easily approved on first reading. Councilman Ernest Leal cast the lone dissenting vote. Leal says he would have liked to have had more time to study the issue. However, the majority of the council said they felt like this was long overdue, and that it was something that will help to bring more people to Seguin, particularly to the downtown area.
A second and final reading of the ordinance must be approved before the ordinance officially takes effect.