VERO BEACH ― At the urging of the non-profit The Source, which operates a food service employment training program, the Vero Beach City Council voted on Jan. 4 to ease restrictions on food trucks and other mobile food establishments.

The new ordinance amends the city’s land development regulations by amending Chapter 64, Article III, Temporary Uses and Structures of Land Development Regulations, to add mobile food establishments to the temporary use and structure regulations. This essentially allows food trucks to operate in the city without permits.

The Planning and Zoning Board had on Dec. 2 voted 5-0 to recommend the ordinance.

According to city Planning Director Jason Jeffries, the new ordinance approved by a 5-0 city council vote “will permit mobile food dispensing vehicles (food trucks) as a mobile food establishment in certain commercial and industrial zoning districts without requiring a temporary use permit, as long as, the food truck meets certain use conditions, such as site placement, maximum number of food trucks on site, and minimum available parking spaces.”

According to Mr. Jeffries, state law allows municipalities to regulate food trucks through zoning laws, but not to ban them entirely.

“The city has never required food truck registration or fees to operate in the city,” Mr. Jeffries said. “We did require zoning code permits through the food trucks as a temporary use that currently would only be allowed through a special event on non-residential property. Special events on non-residential property ... are limited to three events per year, for a maximum of 30 days. Through the discussion with the Planning Board, they wanted to open it up a little more, allow food trucks to occur on properties and not necessarily have to have permits.”

The new ordinance makes it much easier for food trucks to set up around town without needing permits. Food trucks still need to comply with standards and guidelines in the ordinance, even though they won’t need permits.

Those guidelines include compliance with fire prevention code, alcoholic beverage regulations, and proper discarding of waste or grease. The standards apply to both food trucks and mobile setups, such as under a tent.

Mr. Jeffries said that a simple explanation of the changes in layman’s language will soon be posted on the county website. Any necessary enforcement would be through the city’s Code Enforcement Division.

Food trucks have been licensed through the health department, and they still must obtain licenses and comply with their requirements.

“I think the goal here was to make this simpler,” Mayor Robert Brackett said. “These food trucks for the most part are businesses, they’re not hobbies, they are truly a business. Like any other small business, they’re trying to find a way to make ends meet and make a living, and I commend them for that, and I commend the city of Vero Beach for making it easier for them to do that.”

The Source, which operates two food trucks, applauded the change. In a statement sent to Hometown News, the nonprofit said “Allowing The Source to operate their two Dignity Food Trucks within the city The Source calls home is one more step to helping the homeless and the needy in our community come out of homelessness and join the rest of the community in enjoying a dignified life.”

“City Council stepped up to the plate,” The Source statement said. “It was the right things to do and the lawful thing to do.”

The Source said that this new ordinance will help the non-profit become self sufficient, and help “the homeless continue culinary training to reach graduation and certification to work in the food industry or other suitable job and stand on their own two feet while making an income.”

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