TYLER, TX – More food trucks and food truck parks could show up around Tyler if city leaders approve proposed amendments to the city’s code of ordinances.

On Wednesday, the City Council received a presentation on the proposed amendments, which pertain to operation of these units on private property and in public rights of way.

Planning Director Heather Nick, who gave the presentation, first addressed the food truck trend, as well as why the city is looking at amendments.

“Responses to the 2012 Citizen Survey indicate that Tylerites desire more restaurants and diversity in food options in and around the downtown area, an improved entertainment sector and more arts and cultural amenities,” she said. “Tyler is also home to more than 20,000 post-secondary students who are likely to support and place a market demand on creative entertainment options, such as food truck parks and related activities.”

Ms. Nick said city staff received many inquiries from residents and interested startups about the ability to allow for mobile food truck/vending units and food truck parks, which prompted staff to take a look at Tyler’s codes and rules.

She said staff, along with a Food Truck Subcommittee that was formed by the Unified Development Code (UDC) Review Committee in June 2013, has spent more than a year researching mobile food/vending units and food truck parks and coming up with proposals to address the issue.

The subcommittee included an architect, land planner, two local restaurateurs, Northeast Texas Public Health District staff and city staff.

Ms. Nick said the subcommittee, in addition to regular meetings, went to Fort Worth, where they met with local officials there and experienced food truck parks.

Based on the group’s research, there is a food truck phenomenon across the country, Ms. Nick said.

“The market’s trending toward more of a mobile food/vending culture, at least in the larger cities,” City of Tyler Senior Planner Kyle Kingma said Tuesday during a Planning and Zoning Commission work session, adding that mobile food vending is projected to be a $2.7 billion industry by 2017, based on research conducted by the National Restaurant Association.

“It’s kind of low start-up cost to operate a food truck versus setting up a restaurant. A lot of young entrepreneurs are starting with the food truck.”

Ms. Nick said mobile food vending is also used to test markets for different types of food, and these types of businesses rely on social media to get their following and attract people to their locations.

Ms. Nick said some potential benefits for these businesses are that it will allow for a variety of dining opportunities, provide an opportunity to develop culinary culture in the community, and offer that arts and entertainment hub related to tourism, among other things.

She said the subcommittee investigated food handling/health issues such as protecting public health and ensuring that there’s trained food personnel, as well as site considerations such as trash control, disposal of grease and park design — ensuring that shade and restrooms are available.

She said current city regulations allow food trucks on private property with events, provided that there is a park event permit or temporary use permit, and food vending has also been seen in and around construction sites, although the city has not regulated it.

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