LAWRENCE, KS – City commissioners are set to approve some new regulations that should make it much easier for food trucks to set up shop for long periods of time on private property. Commissioners at their Tuesday evening meeting will consider removing the regulation that prohibits food trucks from serving no more than three hours in any one location. Commissioners also may remove a regulation that makes it illegal for more than two food trucks to be set up on one piece of property.

Instead, commissioners are set to approve new regulations that will allow a food truck to operate for as long as it wants on a piece of private property, as long as the property has received a City Hall site plan that accommodates food trucks. What that means in real life is that a bar, for instance, could go through the planning process and designate a specific area of its parking lot to accommodate a food truck. The food truck could then operate there all day and all night, and, presto, a bar that doesn’t have a kitchen suddenly has a way to offer food to its patrons. If the bar has a particularly large parking lot, it could carve out space for perhaps three or four food trucks.

It won’t just be bars that will be able to take advantage of this new regulation. I suppose the owner of a shopping center that is light on restaurants could choose to add a food truck area. Or really, an underutilized parking lot of any kind could be a candidate to host one or more food trucks. The key is that private property owners will have to go through a bit of a process. Getting a site plan isn’t as simple as just filling out a one-page form. Owners generally will have to have professional plans drawn up and will have to show that the food trucks won’t hamper regular parking, interfere with sight lines at intersections and other such things that planners care about. The site plan process also requires neighbors within 200 feet of the property to be notified of the plans before they are approved.

The new regulations don’t open the door for food trucks to park on public property. For example, there are lots of food trucks that would like to take a space in a city-owned downtown parking lot. But commissioners, thus far, have shown no interest in allowing that to happen. They have said that would be unfair to the traditional downtown restaurants that pay a lot of money in property taxes to have a storefront.

But we’ll see how this all develops. Downtown has a few private parking lots, and it will be interesting to see if any of them go through the process to allow food trucks. Thus far, I haven’t heard that is the driving force behind the proposed changes.

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