By Richard Sullins |

The presence of food trucks on Sanford’s city streets and parking lots has been on the increase in recent years, providing folks with an opportunity to taste cuisines from across the state and around the world in ways that brick and mortar restaurants are often not able to do.

The existence of these food trucks and street vendors has gone largely unregulated by the city for years – until now.

The city council has passed an amendment to the Unified Development Ordinance (UDO) that establishes regulations that relate to the definition, location, and standards for mobile food vendors within the city, the town of Broadway, and the remainder of Lee County.

The new rules allow only one food truck or mobile food vendor to operate on a particular parcel of land at a time, unless it is part of an official event sanctioned by Sanford, Broadway, or Lee County. More than one vendor can also be allowed if a temporary use permit for the property is obtained. Vendors will be required to obtain permission from the property owner in advance.

The regulations do not allow food trucks, however, to operate from vacant or undeveloped properties, and trucks must provide an adequate number of solid waste receptacles for use by their customers. Owners are also responsible for removal and disposal of trash as a result of their operation.

Thomas Mierisch, a planner with the city’s Zoning and Design Review office, said Sanford is seeing an uptick in the number of persons wanting to obtain permits to operate food trucks of their own and that as a result, his office began putting together a draft version of an ordinance earlier this year that would spell out the city’s requirements and expectations in a much greater way than is possible now.

Shannon Suggs, owner of Suggs Insurance, told the council she and her husband had leased the building and lot that adjoins her business at 200 South Horner Boulevard on August 1 in hopes of turning it into a food “plaza” where two or three trucks might park and serve customers who were shopping downtown. They began making improvements to the lot around Labor Day.

“Once we began,” she told the council, “we were immediately approached by the city and told that there was no ordinance, but that they would only allow one per lot, again even though no ordinance was in place. We met with the city and were told that they would look at what others around us were doing to determine a possible solution, but in the meantime, we could only park one truck at a time on the lot at South Horner. This was not what we had been led to believe at our first meeting with them.”

Mierisch told the city council that upon adoption of this amendment regarding the placements of food trucks and the regulations that govern them, a second amendment will be prepared to cover the use of larger tracts, such as the Suggs property, for use as “food plazas.”

The city council adopted the amendment in a unanimous vote.