Jacksonville is considered a metropolitan area and, like Raleigh and Charlotte, offers a cultural experience to many of the tourists who visit them.
Food trucks and their way of preparing different types of delicious options usually go with this experience that people are looking for to try the local cuisine. Depending on who you ask, you will find different opinions on how food trucks have been used within the city limits.
One thing is for sure, Jacksonville wasn’t as “food truck friendly” as other surrounding cities.
It wasn’t intended, but over a four-year period there appeared to be a misunderstanding between the city and food truck owners trying to change the text of the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) to give these wheeled restaurants more freedom had .
When the final draft of the UDO was passed in 2014, food trucks were left out. This is where the misunderstanding arose. During the ordinance discussions, nobody was at the table and stood up for the industry, which is why the city decided to issue a “temporary usage permit” for operation at events and festivals.
At the beginning of the last decade, food trucks weren’t a trend in Onslow County, but they quickly became a unified fleet. Temporary permits just weren’t enough for these entrepreneurs, so a county resident decided to attend a city council meeting and come up with suggestions on how officials could make more regulations that would benefit both sides.
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Representing the food truck industry during the September 2016 meeting, Tim Early pointed out the positive effects of food trucks and, retrospectively, other companies could create the county’s largest city. Using ordinances from Raleigh, Greensboro, and other triangular churches, Early devised a plan for day-to-day operations, not just temporary use.
Of course, the council had questions and concerns, but ultimately it was a promising discussion with the city planners even highlighting actions needed to get a text change to change the UDO language.
CONNECTED: Food Trucks for Review in Jacksonville – 2016
And then the trail got cold.
Planning and inspection director Ryan King said the industry never followed up on those moves and their efforts have remained pending. King recalls several food truck owners who attended other city council meetings to express their interest in more serviceability. Among them was Duke Kroger of Yonder Southern Chikin Truck, who shed light on the much-needed cultural boost that Jacksonville was missing from food trucks.
“It’s a necessary step, especially with what is culinary in our state. Food trucks offer many opportunities to have individual experiences with their different types of cultural food that you can’t really get much of,” said Kroger added.
In March 2020, an Onslow resident took over the business of government from Early and decided to end the industry’s launch.
Owner Joey Lisiewski of local food truck Smokin ‘Joe’s BBQ contacted King so he could begin a nearly year-long process of filing a UDO amendment, hearing public hearings, and getting city council input. After filing in April, staff began investigating other jurisdictions, including those first featured along with Wilmington, Sneads Ferry and Surf City.
In October, the staff took their findings before the council, which then did further research. From this investigation, the staff worked out two suggestions for changing the text. After another period of public comment on Jan. 19, the council unanimously agreed to approve the first proposed UDO change, giving food trucks what they have been longing for all along.
Daily operation within the city limits.
Lisiewski praised Early as one of the first in Jacksonville to help him get off the ground in the food truck industry. Adopting Early’s vision was an easy decision as he believed he could support his family where he lives and enjoy the benefits that come with it.
“I was born and raised here in Jacksonville, I’m a local, and I’ve lived it all my life. I didn’t understand why we couldn’t work in the city we live in. We pay taxes and there wasn’t one Reason why we shouldn’t work here, “explained Lisiewski. “I wanted to make sure we could because we don’t like to travel all the time to make our living.”
Travel certainly played a role when Lisiewski advocated other food trucks. Just before filing the UDO application, Smokin ‘Joe got a tremendous shock when his truck blew up while driving back from an event in Wilmington and landed on its side in the middle of the street. After a month of repairs, the truck was back in seasoned shape.
Now Lisiewski is just a few steps away from being the first food truck to operate under the new UDO in the city.
Highlights of the new language include acquiring a grocery sale permit from the city, as well as completing a safety inspection approved by the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Services. The permit is valid for one year and costs $ 300 (for city residents) and $ 500 (for non-residents) from July 1st to June 30th.
However, if approval is obtained after January 1st, the cost will be halved. The UDO will also give owners the freedom to work from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. every day as long as they can meet these and other requirements. So far, King has only seen four permits on his desk. Since the current approval year is due in June, further applications are expected to be submitted in the summer.
“I’m not sure if it’s because food trucks don’t want to spend money on two separate permits right now, or if they are waiting for the warmer months, but I’m a little surprised that more people haven’t applied for the permit” added King.
MORE: Food Truck Roundup “Modernizing Sneads Ferry”
The answer for a food truck owner is that they don’t want to deal with the “bureaucracy” that the city has placed on the industry.
In addition to the permit fees and inspections, the accepted proposal also stipulates that food truck operators must comply with the clearance requirements. You are unable to operate within 250 feet of any other property that has a restaurant or residential area.
There are also regulations on signage and parking requirements. All of these rules put together were just too much for pizza enthusiasts and owners of Joeves Pizza Joseph Broda.
Broda makes a permanent appearance to feed the military aboard Camp Lejeune. He didn’t go into detail about why the city was preventing him from getting a permit, or what bureaucracy he was referring to when it came to work in Jacksonville, only that he had no intention of doing so.
Speaking at the January city council meeting, he delivered a passionate speech saying that food trucks are still discriminated against.
“I want to know why my business is still being discriminated against. Bricks and mortar can have one, two, or even three side by side on the same package. $ 500 is still outrageous for a (permit) fee, if I should be allowed to serve here (Jacksonville), “said Broda. “I can call Wilmington and sit next to a restaurant because they don’t have the 250-foot rule.”
Broda compared his stance with ease of use in Wilmington, adding that he still cannot understand why food trucks are not considered stationary restaurants as most of these new changes remain unfair to his business and the industry. Others shared the same concerns that Broda had before the council’s vote.
Kroger’s wish for the new UDO would be a more open policy where food trucks can be set up and operated. Even if it was only for a short time, just to see where it was going, an experiment if you will.
This is exactly what Councilor Bob Warden called the UDO changes. King, who outlined the proposal at the meeting, agrees that there will be some learning curve when it comes to food trucks driving within city limits. Further changes could be made to the UDO in the future once industry and city officials have had time to observe the overall impact for both sides.
King has worked with a few applicants to answer questions about where they can settle in the future. Some spots will be more lucrative than others, but with no permit applications yet, this pilot program is geared towards success.
The city is developing a GIS map indicating which packages fall under the food truck requirements set by the council. App owners may be able to download these to their smartphone to immediately see which packages are OK.
Regarding enforcement issues, the city’s policy is based on verbal confirmation of compliance with the UDO. If the problems persist, a food truck can have its permit withdrawn.
“Urban planning and development is ready to help anyone interested in setting up a grocery store in the City of Jacksonville. All you have to do is contact us by phone or email and we will be happy to guide and give you the information Information to make sure they are clear on the items, “added King.
For more information on obtaining a mobile grocery sale permit, contact the Jacksonville City Planning and Inspection Office at 910 938-5232. Callers are asked to select option two to reach a city planner.
Reporter Trevor Dunnell can be reached by email at [email protected] Please support local journalism by signing up for a digital subscription for just $ 1 a month. JDNews.com.subscribenow