OKEECHOBEE – At their Thursday, May 12, meeting the Okeechobee County Board of Commissioners approved adoption of an ordinance regulating mobile food vendors.
Some food truck operators attended the meeting, but none chose to comment during the public hearing period before the commission discussion.
“There’s been a lot of back and forth on social media,” said Commissioner Brad Goodbread. He said there was a lot of misinformation circulating.
“There were some people who had concerns and their concerns have been alleviated,” said Commissioner Kelly Owens. “Down the road if something is a problem, they can come back to the board,” she added. “This is not chiseled in stone.”
Tommy Harden, who operates mobile food business, said rules such as providing a bathroom facility with hot and cold water for employees are in the state law. He said state law also prohibits the use of tents or structures other than an awning that is attached to the food truck.
He said the county inspector is very thorough and they strive to meet health and safety standards.
“Everything we serve has to be fresh,” he said. “We don’t have storage space.”
After some discussion, commissioners decided to add Agriculture zoning to the areas where food trucks may operate, so long as the property met other requirements such as improved parking.
The ordinance divides mobile food vendors into three classifications that can more or less be described as food trucks, sandwich wagons and ice cream trucks.
• Class I - Mobile Kitchens - Vehicles that may cook, prepare and assemble food items in the unit and serve a full menu, including hot dog carts.
• Class II - Canteen Trucks - These vehicles sell fruits, vegetables, precooked foods, prepackaged foods and pre-packaged drinks. No preparation or assembly of foods or beverages may take place on or in the vehicle, however, the heating of pre-cooked foods is allowed.
• Class III - Ice Cream Trucks - These vehicles sell only pre-packaged frozen dairy or frozen water-based food products, soft serve or hand-dipped frozen dairy products or frozen water-based products and pre-packaged beverages.
These regulations don’t apply to food trucks that are on commercial sites that have been approved for that purpose.
Class II and Class III trucks cannot remain stationary for more than 60 minutes in any zoning district. That means the sandwich wagons and ice cream trucks can go into various areas, including commercial areas, construction sites and residential areas, but can’t be in any one location for more than an hour.
Food trucks must provide their sales tax number on request.
Food trucks must have current vehicle registration and tags.
Food trucks must have hand sanitizer visible and available while open.
Food trucks can operate on vacant or abandoned business locations, but cannot operate on unimproved surfaces or in landscape buffers. Food truck operators must have written approval from the property owner.
There is not a limit to the hours of operation for a food truck, as they must be located in commercial, agriculture or industrial areas.
There is not a limit to the number of days per week or consecutive days that a food truck may remain at any one location.
Food trucks cannot use parking spaces required for other uses on the property.
Food truck operators must meet all state requirements.
The ordinance states they must have all required licenses, be available for inspections, set up where there is reasonable driveway access and off-street parking.
The ordinance requires the operator to provide restroom facilities for employees within 150 feet if the food truck is open for more than four hours, and to properly manage waste disposal.