The Planning Commission took up and reviewed options for the proposed draft for limited access commercial activity in the Open Space District near the beach. During the past month, staff discussed several administrative matters with other department heads and will work cooperatively if the proposal is ever enacted. Below is current draft language:
The Town recognizes the seasonal nature of this District. Certain limited refreshment and beach-related commercial activity is compatible with the permitted uses listed below. Commercial activity shall be restricted to May 1st through September 15th, between the hours of 9:00 am through sunset. Commercial activity is restricted to the area east (landward) of the toe of the dune to the Boardwalk, south of the pavilion to the fishing pier. Individual vendor sites shall not exceed one-hundred (100) square feet. No commercial activity will be conducted from motor vehicles, and all commercial activity shall exclude the use of external generators and electronic amplification. Signage will not be affixed but may be flags and banners to a maximum of six (6) square feet in area. All vendors are required to abide by the conditions of their business license and failure to do so may result in loss of vending privileges.
The majority of the discussion revolved around licensing issues, and whether a peddler’s license would be sufficient for ‘cart’ vendors, or whether another license schedule should be created. The Commission has received some push back from ‘brick and mortar’ merchants, who pay taxes and fees based on gross sales. Depending on the success of the season, this amount can add up to be much more the $50 peddlers’ fee vendors in the open space would be required to pay. Whether that license would be $100, $200 or even $500 was not determined.
While the majority of the Commission felt that vendors with a limited food offering, such as hot dogs and drinks might provide a beneficial service for beach goers, the consensus was to punt the current draft over to Town Council for an opinion of whether the Commission should continue to pursue this.
Food Truck Zone
Allowing limited vending at the open space near the beach may provide some comfort to beach goers, but it does little to alleviate the lack of food choices in the business district during the peak summer months. With most establishments at full capacity, it can sometimes be well over an hour wait. While vendors like Jum Jum offer delicious, affordable and convenient options, expanding on that idea might be something to look into. Instead of focusing on the very limited open space section of the beach, leveraging town owned open space in and around the harbor with a food truck zone may provide the best bang for the buck.
The oceanfront at Virginia Beach was confronted with a similar issue, and in response created The Hub, a network of nearly 20 local food trucks located in a park on 8th Street between Atlantic and Pacific avenues. The Hub features a rotating schedule of food trucks, artists, live music and craft beer in a grassy lot one block from the ocean, and only requires a conditional-use permit.
Run by Eat The Streets 757, they sublet spaces to about six food trucks and several small-scale local artists and vendors from noon to midnight, Wednesdays through Sundays. Beer, wine and additional food would be sold from a cabana-like structure on site. The Hub offers a festive atmosphere, with string lighting and space for a small music stage and cornhole games. The Hub was modeled after a similar food truck park in a neighborhood of San Francisco.
Given the direction the Town is heading, a seasonal food truck zone could provide a fun, festive and interesting alternative to crowded brick and mortar businesses.