Updated Aug. 5 at 7:55 a.m.
Tomball City Council adopted the food truck ordinance unanimously on second reading at its Aug. 3 meeting.
Posted Aug. 5 at 7:50 a.m.
The growing popularity of mobile food vendors in the Tomball and Magnolia area has long been a topic of discussion for city leaders. In the past month, however, both cities have begun to step up regulations for food trucks.
New Tomball ordinance
For the past several months, Tomball City Council has discussed the idea of establishing an ordinance in response to multiple semipermanent food trucks, such as Sindy’s Tacos, popping up in the city. Tomball City Council Member Derek Townsend brought the idea to the council in early March, citing that the trucks are unsightly and hurt the aesthetic value of the city when left in one area for a long period of time.
At the July 20 meeting, the council adopted an ordinance on first reading requiring food trucks to relocate at least 100 yards away after four hours in a single space and not return to the same location until the following business day. The ordinance is expected to be adopted on second reading at the Aug. 3 meeting.
Under the new ordinance, food truck owners will also be responsible for their own waste management and power supply, meaning that food trucks would be prohibited from using power outlets on surrounding buildings.
During the July 6 meeting, City Council also discussed establishing an alternate area of land where food trucks could set up in one spot to avoid being scattered throughout different areas of the city.
“I would like [for] us to look at finding some place in town where we own a piece of property and allow food trucks to operate there for that four-hour period of time and make it some place nice so that people will want to come and visit,” Townsend said. “That makes it so they have to compete against each other [instead of local restaurants], and we don’t have them strung out all over the city of Tomball.”
Tomball City Attorney Loren Smith said this type of area could potentially be established in Tomball, especially because other cities have successfully created food truck parks using the same method.
“There are a number of cities that have created a mobile food court, so to speak, and that’s typically done through a zoning ordinance,” Smith said.
Plans for a zoning ordinance to establish a food truck park have not been presented to the council but are expected to be discussed at future meetings.
The new ordinance will not apply to temporary food trucks and mobile vendors that come to Tomball for community events, such as the Tomball German Fest. Typically those vendors apply for special permits to operate in the city, Tomball City Secretary Doris Speer said.
“We are looking to see how much space we would have over at the [Magnolia] Farmers Market for food trucks. I think it would be a great draw."
-Magnolia City Council member Anne Sundquist
Possible Magnolia ordinance
The city of Magnolia is also looking to establish a food truck ordinance of its own.
During the June 25 Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, city officials discussed ways to regulate the growing number of food trucks coming to the city for events and the bimonthly Magnolia Farmers Market held on Sundays at the intersection of FM 1774 and FM 1488.
City officials have spoken with representatives from Huntsville to determine the best protocol for establishing food truck regulations, Magnolia City Council Member Anne Sundquist said.
In addition, Sundquist said she plans to arrange a meeting with local restaurant owners, the Magnolia Farmers Market, the P&Z commission and City Council members to discuss stipulations for a possible ordinance. Once the P&Z commission approves an ordinance draft, Sundquist said she anticipates Magnolia City Council to vote on the final text by the end of August or in September.
“We’ll be looking at establishing fees and regulations for private property or public property,” Sundquist said. “We [know] that Montgomery had them and Huntsville had them for some time. You just have to see how they are configured and get a feel for it.”
The food trucks would likely be a way to attract more visitors to Magnolia, and the city is hoping to establish regulations to bring in more trucks soon, Sundquist said.
“We are looking to see how much space we would have over at the [Magnolia] Farmers Market for food trucks,” she said. “I think it would be a great draw. It would encourage people to come to the farmers market and grab [food] while walking around and cause more vendors to come.”