Let's Taco 'Bout Food Trucks
**Click here to check out the webpage on our city website that includes all necessary information pertaining to the public food truck hearing**
At the City of Nacogdoches we are working diligently to continue the conversation about mobile food units (food trucks) in our community. We have been asked why we are revisiting this issue so soon and the answer is simple. As with any new change of policy, kinks must be worked out and new elected officials are interested in perfecting our policies with public input at the forefront.
The current ordinance was generated after two public discussion series meetings—one, held in Banita Creek Park and one held at the Nacogdoches Public Library in 2017. This allowed the public—including several local business and restaurant owners—to offer feedback on the time restrictions and various inspection processes.
The current regulations have been set forth to ensure the health and safety of mobile food truck owners as well as their patrons. It also includes rules and regulations regarding the application, permit fees, limits on hours, and summarizes requirements for inspections which are the same or more rigorous than brick and mortar restaurants.
Currently, there are 4 very active mobile food units in the community. They operate in various specifically permitted locations. These locations include Red House Winery, Charles Pool Real Estate, Diver Depot and Fredonia Brewery. There are several other trucks that have been permitted but are more active in other towns such as Longview and Lufkin and are not commonly seen in Nacogdoches. Public spaces where the trucks are permitted to operate include Downtown square and the Recreation/Public Library on North Street.
As it stands today, food trucks must be 200 feet away from a restaurant. Ordinance revisions may include removal of this provision from the ordinance as the City of Nacogdoches has been made aware of issues concerning the constitutionality a distance provision that is not placed in the ordinance due to health and safety reasons. Thus, hindering free trade and potentially over-stepping governmental powers.
The provision was placed in the ordinance in 2017 (when the ordinance made trucks possible in Nacogdoches) and mirrored many other communities throughout the country. Other communities are also becoming aware of potential issues concerning this portion of the ordinance.
Festivals operate under another set of rules and regulations completely. However, on a day-to-day basis trucks are able to operate on private property and new changes will allow city staff to limit spaces and use in public spaces. For example, the Recreation Center currently limits use and hours based on other uses of the building and the parking needs at the facility on any given day. This allows the trucks to be able to operate and advertise their own locations and schedules, but also allows the City of Nacogdoches to officially limit to the number of mobile food units utilizing public spaces based on each location and individual permit request.
Part of the conversation also revolves around the use of food trucks in the Downtown District. I have made several videos that discuss this in length (including all of the proposed changes to the current ordinances) and those can be found on the city’s website and social media pages.
One concept of development revolves around the idea that there is an orderly way to develop a community. Keystones of this type of development include housing and shopping in close proximity to one another, public spaces open for all, and walkability between various types of land uses.
A local example of this is our Downtown District in Nacogdoches. We are lucky to have this historic area especially since some cities are building developments with new urbanism in mind from the ground up. Advocates for this type of development believe that there is a time and place for every type of business. For example, big-box stores should exist and fill a need but shouldn’t be in the town center (downtown).
One may also argue food trucks can be a vibrant, exciting addition to life—especially in a small town since it contributes to economic vitality, allow for future restaurants to run a ‘start up’ company, and adds character, and comradery to our community.
I will let you (if you’re a nerd like me) research the ins and outs of this argument, but it’s safe to say, we are at a crossroads and need to hear from you. No one is intrinsically wrong when it comes to his or her preferences but the fact remains the same, your elected officials want to continue the conversation. Those of you interested in this topic, you are invited to come speak at the Courthouse Annex on Thursday July 25 at 5:30 pm. City Council members will be present to hear public comments. Written and digital input can also be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org and will be compiled into a list for elected officials.
About the Author
Amy Mehaffey began her work with the City of Nacogdoches in July 2015. Prior to this, she worked as a 4-H Specialist for Texas A&M AgriLife Extension. In this role she did marketing and promotion for the Texas 4-H Youth Development Program and served as the event coordinator for Texas 4-H Roundup, the agency’s largest event. Amy in May 2015 with her PhD in Recreation, Parks, and Tourism Sciences with an emphasis in youth development. During the pursuit of this degree she also received a certificate in Prevention Science and a Certificate in Non-Profit Management from the Bush School of Government and Public Service. Previously, she completed a Master’s of Science in Agricultural Communications at Texas A&M University and a Bachelor’s of Science in the same field at Texas Tech University. Amy is also a freelance photographer and enjoys Texas A&M football in the fall. She is married to John Michael Mehaffey who is a professor of Animal Science at Stephen F. Austin State University. They are proud parents to Hattie Mae Mehaffey, born September 1, 2016 and Hunter Leigh Mehaffey born July 2018.