NPR Council discusses food trucks in city

New Port Richey approved the first reading of an ordinance related to food trucks operating within city limits. A state law passed this summer strips municipalities of many of their abilities to regulate the mobile businesses.

NEW PORT RICHEY — Florida municipalities’ ability to regulate food trucks from operating within their borders were curtailed by the state Legislature earlier this year when Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the Occupational Freedom and Opportunity Act into law June 30.

The legislation affected dozens of business types and was billed as a deregulation effort that prohibits many licensing and permitting requirements. Food trucks are no longer required to be registered and allows them to operate in downtown and commercial areas without approval.

This month, the New Port Richey City Council focused on the bill’s affect on how, when and where food trucks are allowed to operate. Council members first discussed the issue at their Oct. 6 meeting but tabled the first reading of an ordinance so City Attorney Tim Driscoll could alter its language.

The statewide law relaxed the city’s ability to regulate mobile food vending, although some rules can still be enacted.

“We can control where they are, where they operate, so this ordinance provides that they can operate in the commercial areas and downtown area,” Driscoll said Oct. 6. “The only thing we’re not allowed to do is completely preempt them from operating anywhere in the city. We cannot ban them citywide. This is intended to protect the residential properties so someone won’t have a food truck sitting in front of their house.”

“As far as public property, this would allow them unfettered use of the public streets if they’re parked in legal areas and they meet the definition of being a mobile food dispensing vehicle,” Driscoll added.

Council members chose to table the agenda item until Oct. 20 because of concerns such as food trucks’ ability to operate on mixed-use properties and during special events downtown.

Council members were supportive of allowing food trucks at mixed-use properties, such as Main Street Landing. During special events, there was concern that any event could be inundated with food trucks and event planners would have no control over the situation.

Mayor Rob Marlowe, who called this element of the state legislation a violation of home rule, tasked Driscoll with altering the city’s ordinance to prohibit any mobile food vending in Sims Park during special events unless they business is invited by the organizers. The new ordinance also prohibits food trucks from operating in residential areas or adjacent to residential dwellings.

“It doesn’t seem quite sporting for somebody, be it Chasco (Fiesta) or the Main Street New Port Richey folks, to do a special event and have food trucks just sort of descend on top of their event,” Marlowe said Oct. 6.

Council members passed the ordinance’s first reading 5-0 at the Oct. 20 meeting, though concerns are not fully allayed.

“The more we discuss this the scarier it gets to me,” Councilman Jeff Starkey said Oct. 6. “That’s why home rule is so important. All of a sudden we can’t regulate where a food truck just comes and parks in our city any time.”

The second and final reading of the ordinance will be Nov. 3.