Community Development hears proposed ordinance regulating use of food trucks

By Martha Stoffel

O’FALLON – Discussions regarding the regulation of mobile food truck vendors within the city of O’Fallon continued at Monday’s Community Development Committee meeting. 

Regulations for food trucks does not currently exist in the city of O’Fallon. The growing popularity of food trucks and the lack of an ordinance prompted the discussions that started last month. City staff brought it to committee in September to receive guidance on how to put together an ordinance for their review. An ordinance would look to define food trucks, establish licensing fees and penalties. 

Through the feedback at the September 10 committee meeting and a September 27 meeting with downtown business owners, the staff brought forth a proposed ordinance and an administrative policy. Staff is recommending council review of all special event applications involving mobile food vendors for at least one year, since the food truck industry is relatively new. After the first year, a review of the ordinance and policy will be done to determine any changes that may need to be made. 

The recommended administrative policy would require the applicant of a special event permit involving food trucks submit a notice of intent to surrounding restaurants within 750 feet of the location. The applicant would also be required to receive written consent from any established restaurant within 350 feet that serves like or similar goods that result in the food truck being in direct competition of the existing restaurant. 

The proposed ordinance would put into place the regulations for the conditions of the food truck, set fees and penalties, and the requirement for all mobile food vendors to receive approval of a Special Event Permit from the city. Additionally, the ordinance states the driver must have a valid driver’s license, vendor possess a city license, signage limitations, cleanliness requirements surrounding the food truck and prohibited alcohol sales. A food truck will not be allowed to operate in one location for longer than six hours, per location, per day, and a specific property cannot serve as a location for food trucks more than once a week.

The discussion amongst the committee and additional city council members in attendance primarily focused on whether or not certain regulations within the administrative policy were necessary, and the unintended consequence too much regulation could have on the types of future events to be held in town, specifically at the new O’Fallon Station pavilion. All were in agreement that general regulations were needed for mobile food truck vendors within the city. 

City Clerk Jerry Mouser, who previously served as an alderman, said “for 20 years we’ve been trying to get people to come downtown and we’re starting to get that to happen.” He went on to say that he believed that future events at O’Fallon Station that may include food trucks doesn’t mean everyone will purchase something from the trucks and not the local businesses, “it just means that hopefully those trucks being there will bring people downtown. And what are we trying to do? We’re trying to bring people downtown.” He recommended to the council to be careful with too tough of regulations that would limit their ability to have events downtown that would bring people into that area of the city.

Some committee members and alderman who spoke in favor of the stricter regulations, specifically tied to the distance from brick and mortar businesses, were supportive of food trucks at St. Elizabeth’s or the McKendree Metro RecPlex. 

The committee took no formal action Monday night regarding the ordinance, but will continue the discussion at their next meeting. The committee will review two options at the next meeting. One option will eliminate specific restrictions, have a stripped down ordinance containing how you license food trucks, fees and penalties, and leave everything conditional to a special event permit to be approved by council on a case-by-case basis. The second option would add specific restrictions (how long they can operate in one location, how frequently they can be at one location, distance from brick and mortar businesses etc) to the ordinance or policy, and the committee would need to define what those restrictions will be before council approval of the ordinance.