County aims to update food truck restroom regulations

Concerns are growing among local mobile food vendors as Hays County officials seek to update food truck restroom facility regulations.

According to a Hays County official, the Department of Developmental Service is currently toying with the idea of requiring some sort of on-site restroom facility for food trucks that are stationary on a plot of land.

The inquiry was prompted by an anonymous mobile food vendor who worried about the county’s motives on the proposition, sparking concern that the regulatory changes could be detrimental to business.

“These changes are only going in regard to mobile units that are completely stationary at a location, or a food court-type setup,” said Caitlyn Strickland, interim development services director for Hays County. “For mobile food units that are truly mobile, they are not going to be affected. But if you’re stationary, this will help employees and patrons have access to adequate and safe restrooms.”

Strickland said the county is not looking to trump city regulations on mobile food vendors unless invited to do so by a municipality. The proposed changes will only affect mobile vendors who operate outside of a city’s jurisdiction.

Cities such as Buda, Dripping Springs and Kyle in recent years have crafted specific ordinances related to food trucks.

Although preliminary, the county is looking to require either an on-site septic system or connection to city utility lines, pertinent on location. According to the county, requiring Porta-Potties is a possibility, but not likely, as officials believe permanent restroom facilities are optimal.

The potential change has some vendors worried, including Dripping Springs food truck and property owner Bill Warren.

For most of 2018, Warren spent months seeking approval from the city of Dripping Springs to operate a mobile food truck park – a fight that was costly in time and money.  

Currently, Warren operates his own food truck, Pig Pen BBQ, alongside six other vendors at his location along U.S. 290.

“The reason we started a food truck is that we didn’t have the capital to open a brick and mortar,” Warren said. “And that’s the case for all of us. We made this decision because unless you have half a million dollars in the bank, this is the most economical choice.”

While he operates within Dripping Springs city limits, Warren said the proposed changes in unincorporated areas of the county are concerning. An on-site septic system could cost a property owner around $65,000 to $70,000.

Warren said as the business owner of the property, he is required to hire services for pumping grey water on a weekly basis, which is costly but necessary for business.

“We are required to use these services to pump water out of our facilities,” Warren said. “I don’t understand why, if we already have these measures in place, we would need septic.”

Hays County Commissioners are expected to discuss the potential changes in the summer. If approved, the proposed changes wouldn’t go into effect until 2020.

Strickland said even if changes are made in 2019, the county will not enforce these new regulations until the next year, as officials are not in support of enforcing changes in the middle of a calendar year.

Warren said the proposed changes are “taking away from the American dream.”

“These families in our park support themselves with their food trucks. If we are forced to close because of strict regulations, Dripping Springs would lose six diverse options for dining, which to me, is the point of food trucks,” Warren said. “It allows people to enjoy whatever types of food they want, all in one area.”

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