Regulatory policy

Township near State College changes policy on food trucks

Those who have wanted the ability to purchase food and drink from food trucks while visiting public parks near State College are in luck. Food trucks can now operate in parks and rights-of-way in Ferguson Township.

Ferguson Township supervisors unanimously passed an ordinance in March amending several sections of its zoning and subdivision and land use ordinances, including Chapter 27, which regulates food trucks.

“Over the past decade, food trucks have become a fixture in communities, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic. These small businesses have been exceptionally hard hit and their contribution to the local economy is not inconsequential,” Jenna Wargo, director of planning and zoning, wrote in a statement. “Amending the food truck ordinance to allow food trucks to operate easily in Ferguson Township boosts the local economy and helps preserve these small businesses.”

According to previous meeting agendas, the township completed a comprehensive update to its zoning and subdivision and land use ordinances in late 2019. Since then, staff have “tracked errors and omissions in the interpretation of orders”. As part of this, Wargo presented a number of additional amendments to address various issues to the board for approval in March.

Previously, the ordinance allowed food trucks to operate in any zoning district in the township, but not in its parks. The previous order stated that “The Central Region Parks and Recreation Authority is solely responsible for the licensing and regulation of food trucks in public parks.”

In a press release, the municipality indicated that it would work in collaboration with the CRPR. Vendors will now need to complete the food truck application on the township’s website and obtain a zoning permit from the township’s planning and zoning department.

The ordinance states that a mobile food facility cannot be located on a site for more than 13 weeks per year and lists the time limits for different zoning districts. Specifically, food trucks in neighborhood parks and gathering places in residential neighborhoods can operate between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. Overnight parking of food trucks in the parks is prohibited, unless specifically authorized.

Food trucks cannot operate in certain parks, such as The Meadows, Park Hill, and Songbird Sanctuary.

To operate a food truck within a township’s right-of-way, a permit will need to be issued by the township’s zoning administrator. The ordinance states that township staff may establish conditions restricting specific streets, locations and times for selling products. The ordinance generally prohibits food trucks on Blue Course Drive, Whitehall Road, West College Avenue, North Atherton Street and West Aaron Drive.

Approval for mining within a township’s right-of-way is site-specific, the ordinance says. So if a new location for the food truck is proposed, a new permit will be required.

Ice cream trucks continue to be exempt from these regulations, the statement said.

Halie Kines reports on local government for the Center Daily Times. She grew up in Penns Valley and graduated from Penn State.