Food trucks may begin appearing soon in Sandy Springs parking lots, as the City Council on Oct. 17 legalized the mobile vendors to operate outside of special events.

While food trucks can still appear at festivals under the special events permits, the new system also allows a truck to operate at up to five private properties. There are two big exceptions on locations: The trucks can’t be within 100 feet of single- or two-family homes, and they can’t operate outside a brick-and-mortar restaurant owned by someone else.

Visitors enjoy the offerings of food trucks at a 2013 Art Sandy Springs event at Kudzu and Company on Roswell Road. Now the city is allowing food trucks to operate not only at such special events, but regularly on private property around town. (File Photo by Phil Mosier)

At a previous council discussion in September, Assistant City Manager Jim Tolbert said the new permit attempts to balance public demand for food trucks with concerns from restaurant owners.

He said the city talked about allowing food trucks a couple of years ago, but got resistance from restauranteurs. On the other hand, he said, the city recently shut down an unpermitted food truck, “and we got a lot of grief out of it.”

The new permits, which will be good for one year, allow trucks that sell food and non-alcoholic beverages. Truck owners will be allowed to set up one table, up to 10-by-10 feet in size. Other required paperwork will include written permission from the property owners and a drawing of where exactly the truck will park to ensure it does not block traffic or emergency vehicles.

The trucks also will need the standard business license and permits from the fire and health departments.

Tolbert said the new permit policy was reviewed by the Food Truck Association of Georgia, the Sandy Springs Perimeter Chamber of Commerce and the Sandy Springs Restaurant Council.

At last month’s discussion, City Councilmember John Paulson asked whether there would be a limit on the total number of food truck permits issued, suggesting it could “get out of hand” with trucks everywhere. Councilmember Gabriel Sterling said the market likely would self-regulate to a reasonable number of trucks, and Tolbert said there is no plan for limiting the permits.

Councilmembers also wondered about possible unintended consequences. Councilmember Andy Bauman said he once held a bar mitzvah at his home and had a food catering truck in the driveway. City Attorney Dan Lee said that the permit requirement would apply only to trucks whose business is “open to the general public.”

At the September discussion, Sterling wondered whether the permits would affect ice cream trucks – and, when Tolbert said no, whether their unusual business model could become a loophole big enough to drive a food truck through.

“If food trucks move around and play a song, they’d be OK?” Sterling asked, while Mayor Rusty Paul joked about “hauling those darn ice cream trucks in.”

The final version of the food truck ordinance specifically exempts ice cream trucks of the sort that drive through neighborhoods on public streets. However, it specifies that such trucks can only stop for 15 minutes at a time and operate on streets where the speed limit is 30 mph or less.

Likewise, food trucks, under the new permits, are not allowed to play “any music, sound effect or noise that is audible outside of the vehicle.”