Freeport opens a narrow window for food trucks

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FREEPORT — The Town Council approved a zoning amendment that gives food trucks what one official called a “very narrow opening” to operate in some parts of town.

The amendment, which was recommended by the Planning Board, adds the definition of “artisan food and beverage” providers to the town’s zoning ordinance to describe small-scale food-and-drink establishments that may run food trucks as accessory uses in specific zoning districts.

The trucks, however, will continue to be banned in the busy downtown Village Commercial Districts 1-4. 

Food trucks will be allowed in Commercial Districts 1, 3, and 4, the Local Business District, Industrial Districts 1 and 2, and Medium Density Districts A and B. A zoning map can be found on the Freeport town website.

Councilors on Dec. 2 approved the zoning amendment 4-2, with Councilors Andy Wellen and Kristina Egan opposed. It will go into effect after the Dec. 17 council meeting, where a fee structure will be established.

Wellen said he wants the fees to be high, so that brick-and-mortar restaurants that pay property taxes aren’t disadvantaged.

“I think we would need to have a level playing field with food trucks,” Egan agreed.

The zoning amendment also includes many standards for the accessory food trucks.

They must be on the same property as the parent business, and only one food truck will be allowed on a property at any time. Up to three food trucks may be allowed if the town gives permission, but the trucks can’t be at that location for more than three days and this exception can only be allowed three times a year.

Food trucks must be on private property, unless the town makes an exception for a special event. Food trucks can only be open when the host business is open, but will be limited to 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and 8 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

Truck operators will not be allowed to verbally solicit pedestrians and sales can’t be made to people in vehicles. Also, food trucks can’t have exterior lighting, unless it is to illuminate a menu. Signs, except for any that identify the name of the business, aren’t allowed on food trucks and no amplified noises will be allowed to come from the trucks.

All equipment must be contained inside the food truck and no furniture or seating will be allowed. The only exceptions are for one trash can and one recycling can, both of which will be required. The businesses will also be required to pick up all trash within a 25-foot radius of the trucks, and must provide access to restrooms.

Food trucks must be registered with the Maine Bureau of Motor Vehicles and licensed by the state Department of Health and Human Services. Businesses wishing to use a food truck must also obtain a license from Freeport’s code enforcement officer. 

Food trucks that will be selling at more than nine special events in Freeport must also obtain victualer’s licenses from the town. This does not apply to private catering events or parties where a resident hires a food truck.

The zoning amendment first came before the Planning Board earlier this fall at the request of the Maine Beer Co. at 525 U.S. Route 1. It had asked the Project Review Board for permission to have a food truck at its brewery during the summer, but the board didn’t have the authority to grant the company’s request. 

Town Planner Donna Larson said that while the amendment has many restrictions, businesses like Maine Beer Co. will now have the option to offer food.

“It’s a very narrow opening for food trucks,” Larson said.

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or kgardner@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

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I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.