By Michelle Wagner | Outer Banks Voice on October 1, 2021
An Avon restaurant owner is requesting that Dare County relax its zoning ordinance to allow business establishments to have up to five mobile food trucks on their property as opposed to just one, which is currently the limit in the unincorporated areas of the county.
With the Dare County Planning Board already giving the proposal the green light, the Dare County Commissioners are expected to set a public hearing date for the proposal at their upcoming Oct. 4 meeting.
In a letter to county planners, Pangea Tavern Owner and Kuro Village founder Joe Thompson said the popularity of food trucks is growing quickly across the country, and he attributed that growth to cultural changes and awareness, the popular scene that food trucks create, as well as the heavy burden of operating brick and mortar restaurants.
Thompson, in the letter, stated his belief that it was time Dare County move forward in promoting food trucks and the idea of food truck courts.
“Just like Food Courts at the mall or at the airport, there is a reason why they are together, not spread apart,” he said of food trucks. “They operate near traditional restaurants and not only do they not ‘take from each other,’ they make each other better. They both contribute to the overall experience. “
In 2018, Dare County amended its zoning ordinance to allow for one food truck per business site, limiting the number permitted due to concerns there would be an excessive amount of food trucks that would also compete with brick and mortar establishments.
In a recent staff report on the matter, however, Dare County Planning Director Donna Creef said that since at time, the county has approved only eight mobile food units, two of which are no longer in business.
“This concern has not materialized,” she noted. Under the current and proposed ordinance, food trucks would have to be approved by the planning department and parking and restroom standards on site would also apply.
In his letter, Thompson noted that he doesn’t see food trucks as competition, but rather complimentary to his business. “The surest regulator on this concept is the market itself,” he stated. “I can tell you that if the site is not ‘right’ for a food truck, the customers will not come, and the food trucks will drive away.”
When contacted by the Voice, Outer Banks Restaurant Association President Wes Stepp said the topic of food trucks hasn’t come up on the association’s radar as of late, adding that he didn’t have any opinion on the issue.
When it comes to regulations regarding food trucks in Dare County municipalities, zoning ordinances vary. In Nags Head, food trucks are allowed under some circumstances. They are permitted in conjunction with a permitted special event. In the case of an existing restaurant, a food truck is permitted on the same lot when the restaurant is closed. When the restaurant is open, a food truck is permitted as long as there is a minimum of three parking spaces beyond what is required.
In Southern Shores, the town has only allowed food trucks at Kitty Hawk Elementary School events. As for Kill Devil Hills, food trucks are not a permitted or special use within any of the town’s zoning districts. In Manteo, with the exception of one-time operations during a festival or special event, food trucks are not permitted.