February 6, 2017

Franklin Home Page
by Landon Woodroof

An ordinance that would change Brentwood’s zoning laws to allow food trucks to operate more freely in the city received a recommendation of approval from the Planning Commission Monday night.

The ordinance, and another that deals with the related subject of food truck regulation, had been approved on first reading at the Board of Commissioners meeting on Jan. 10. The zoning ordinance approved Monday still has to a public hearing on Feb. 13, and both ordinances must pass second readings before the Board of Commissioners before they become law. The second and final reading of the food truck ordinances is set for Feb. 27.

As it stands now, food trucks are free to set up in certain commercial areas of the city that also allow retail, but not in C-1, or office-only, areas, which include places like Maryland Farms. They are also not allowed in residential areas.

Churches, schools and other institutions are allowed to hire food trucks for special events under current law, but permits from the Planning Commission are necessary to do so.

The food truck zoning ordinance would allow food trucks in those C-1 and residential areas where they are presently banned, and make food trucks a “permitted use,” so that places like schools and churches could feature them at city-approved special events without having to get a permit. Events featuring more than 10 food trucks would still require permits.

Although the Planning Commission recommended unanimously that the Board of Commissioners approve the ordinance, some planning commissioners voiced concerns about aspects of the city’s food truck plans.

Commissioner Jack Fletcher, for instance, thought the city should perhaps take greater steps to ensure that its ordinances would attract only high-quality food trucks to Brentwood. He suggested that the city could require that food trucks have at least $1 million worth of liability insurance if they wanted to set up in Brentwood.

“If they have liability insurance for that, usually those trucks are well-designed, well-maintained, well-equipped,” he said.

Fletcher added that “if you don’t have some way of maintaining your desire of a certain type of service then you open yourself up to anything so to speak.”

The ordinance regulating food trucks does require that trucks selling food in Brentwood be licensed and follow all applicable rules and regulations from relevant governing authorities. It also says that food trucks must have vehicle insurance and, if operating on city property other than the right-of-way, possibly additional insurance as well. There is no mention of any specific amounts of insurance that a truck must have.

Raising another concern, Commissioner John Church wondered what would keep food truck vendors from simply parking in front of a business on a permanent basis.

“If you go down Nolensville Road, just about every gas station along there has got a food truck out front,” he said.

City Attorney Roger Horner said that the city has not come across this problem so far with food trucks that have been allowed in Brentwood.

“I understand that concern, but that loophole may already exist because food trucks technically aren’t prohibited now in any of the zones that allow retail uses so if somebody was inclined to do that, this ordinance doesn’t open the door for them to do that any more than it’s already open,” he said.

Jeff Dobson, the director of the Planning & Codes Department, said that if this did occur, the city would have ways to deal with it.

“If we ran into a food truck that had been permanently affixed to a site…we would consider that a revised site plan and we would require that it come before you so we could have some control over that,” he said.

Wary that the conversation was veering away from Planning Commission territory, Dobson felt the need to add a little later on, “As a reminder your review and recommendation relates only to Ordinance 2017-02”—the zoning ordinance.

The Planning Commission’s recommendation is not legally binding in any way. The Board of Commissioners will ultimately decide the fate of food trucks in Brentwood.

For more information about the two proposed food truck ordinances, check out this slideshow on the city’s website.