Issues to ponder before allowing food trucks in the Port City

Issues to ponder before allowing food trucks in the Port City

To the editor:

These are some thoughts and questions on the advent of food trucks in Alexandria. Food truck service on public property is a new use that’s not fully covered in the city code when it comes to taxes, food safety, fire safety and public assembly.

What is the perceived benefit to the city? Where will bathrooms for patrons be located? The tables and chairs installed on Market Square — one proposed location for food trucks — were placed there for food service patrons. The building code requires bathrooms for restaurants. Will the needs of patrons in this new class of use be different?

Will there be special use hearings — as required for restaurants, outdoor food, crafts markets and carryout eateries — to consider issues such as traffic, parking, trash and other potential effects on the surrounding community? Will the new use be compatible with the goals of the Old Town restaurant policy?

Will the interior cooking (heating) apparatus be inspected for approval, and will food truck owners pay the Alexandria commercial business fire protection permit fee?

Will the Alexandria food code be applied, and how will the public be assured that food sources, preparation and storage sites will be included in inspections? What bathroom facilities will workers use? Will they pay the city health department oversight fees as food service establishments do?

How will this new class of commercial use be a contributing part of the tax base? It is clear that a business license tax, state sales tax and local meals tax are straight forward and can and should be collected.

Trucks will pay a personal property tax on vehicle and equipment, but not necessarily to Alexandria — maybe to Prince William, Fairfax or Prince George’s counties.

As to business personal property (equipment for food service): That equipment may or may not be declared, and tax revenue may or may not be collected by Alexandria. This depends on where the vehicle is registered and how diligent the enforcement agents in that jurisdiction are regarding inspections.

A fee or bid process for food truck licenses could be an answer to ensuring that this new form of commercial property will participate on an equitable basis to the tax base of Alexandria in a manner comparable to that of commercial properties and businesses.
– Charlie Lindsey
Owner of The Creamery