People line up at the Madison Farmer’s Market for some rolled ice cream served from a mobile trailer
People line up at the Madison Farmer’s Market for some rolled ice cream served from a mobile trailer

RIDGELAND — City officials discussed a future food truck ordinance at Monday evening’s work session that would add mobile food service vehicles and trailers as a permitted use in the city’s zoning ordinance.

Mayor Gene F. McGee said they hope to have something to vote on for the first meeting of November after having discussed the issue multiple times this year.

“I think the most important thing is that we do it right,’ McGee said.

The item was not discussed at all on Tuesday evening during the regular board meeting.

McGee added that this is a necessary process to ensure that the city receives tax revenues from the profit made within the city limits.

During his Monday evening presentation, Community Development Director Alan Hart presented a sample ordinance to the Mayor and Board of Alderman. He said that because food trucks are not mentioned in the permitted uses of the city’s ordinance, they are not a permitted use.

He said current food trucks operating in the city were either permitted because they were catering an event and not selling directly to customers, were tied to a specific event, or were operating under questionable if not outright illegal standing. He said the ordinance would help clear up any confusion and add a way to know who was operating in town and offer a way to collect taxes.

“I know there was a taco truck visiting construction sites. There is an enforcement issue because we haven’t even had the opportunity to talk to him because whenever he gets a whiff of us he does a pretty good job of disappearing,” Hart said.

Hart said the ordinance has been developed by a panel of business owners and restaurateurs, all with skin in the transient vendor game, to make sure the ordinance welcomed new businesses while protecting existing companies in Ridgeland.

In the ordinance presented by Hart, vendors will have to submit all four sides of their truck to the city for architectural review and will have to have a home base, in our out of town, to properly prepare food, store equipment and dispose of waste.

In addition, entities already based within the city will have a six-month head start on obtaining licenses and conducting business.

“Throughout this process, we always want to be careful to protect our local restaurants,” McGee said Monday. “That is part of the reason we are not asking anyone to vote tomorrow evening. We want to carefully consider this.”

Vendors will also have to register a privilege license that will last 90 days. Initial fillings will likely cost just above $250 and will have a limited number of $25 extensions before a new license must be re-obtained.

Hart said that food trucks will only be allowed in certain zoning classifications.

“Think C-2 and C-3a, those types of places,” he said.

Vendors will require the landowner's permission and must be more than 200 feet away from the door of restaurant buildings.

“I really appreciate the effort that was put into this. I think this needs to be done and done right,” Alderman-at-Large D.I. Smith said.