Food truck business proposal causes city to rethink ordinance

A proposal for a food truck stop in Winter Springs had Commissioners Monday discussing whether they should rethink an ordinance that took “a great deal of time” to create.

A proposal for a food truck stop in Winter Springs had Commissioners Monday discussing whether they should rethink an ordinance that took “a great deal of time” to create. 

“I don’t know if you’ve read it, but this would essentially gut it,” Winter Springs Deputy Mayor Rob Elliott said in response to a proposal by a local couple, Nicoletta Boonaccordo and Sal Bottiglieri, who wanted to combine their restaurant, event planning and real estate experience into a business they called “Winter Springs Patio.” 

The concept, which project presenter Amalia Yount noted, was “a very rough draft” of a food truck area on a roughly 1.2 acre plot of land currently occupied by the Sports Heaven Orlando bar and batting cages at the corner of State Road 434 and Belle Avenue. 

“It’s more of a food court idea rather than a rotating truck business,” Yount said. 

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It would include multiple spots for 6-month-minimum leases for food trucks to park full-time, plus a beer and wine bar, a potential playground, event stage and other amenities. 

“I would encourage you to not look at it in full detail,” Yount said during the non-binding presentation. 

But the details seemed to prohibit the possibility of the project, multiple city officials said. 

“The concept I like, but it is a small property for what you’re talking about here,” Commissioner Matt Benton said. “It would take some real ingenuity to get parking in there.” 

“I think what you put on paper is a five-acre project on one and a half acres,” Commissioner Cade Resnick said, though he later said that with some modifications the plan might be possible. 

That was before commissioners began talking about how the food truck area would run afoul of the city’s food truck ordinance that was voted into law in 2020, particularly a part of the ordinance that prevented food trucks from parking in the same space for more than three days at a time, more than four days in a week, or with more than two trucks in the same lot, unless by special event permit. 

“It would take a lot of effort by this Commission to rewrite this ordinance,” Elliott said. “It wouldn’t just be give a variance here, give a variance there, it would be the whole ordinance.” 

The ordinance had been created to get ahead of oncoming state legislation that city attorney Anthony Garganese said would have preempted the city from regulating food trucks. 

“The preemptions implied that if you didn’t have any regulations they’re not prohibited anywhere,” Garganese said.  

The city had also been combatting a problem of food trucks parking in empty lots indefinitely. 

“We had food trucks that were parked for years that were literally not moving,” Mayor Kevin McCann said. That had created a problem between the food truck operators and permanent restaurant owners in the city, he added. 

“They’d say ‘I’m paying rent, I’m employing employees so why is it they get to come in without paying rent and just park there,’” he said. 

Allowing Winter Springs Patio, Elliott said, would mean allowing exceptions to the city’s ordinance that might allow that to happen again. 

“Any other food truck could just park themselves on a vacant lot somewhere and it would take us forever to get them off that vacant lot,” Elliott said. 

But commissioners pointed toward changes that might make the project possible, such as changing the concept from food trucks to smaller permanent restaurants or food stands operating on the same property that could be rented on a shorter-term basis or, as Commissioner Victoria Colangelo suggested, a concept more similar to Boxi Park in Lake Nona, using converted shipping containers on a 30,000-square-foot development as a food venue and event space. 

Neighboring Oviedo created a special zoning district to accommodate a similar concept in its downtown core areas, called light industrial. That, however, was to remedy an issue related to having stand-alone bars in the city’s downtown. 

Boonaccordo said that she’s under contract with the owner of the property contingent upon whether the city approves the project, but that she wanted to work with the city on what that could be.

“We’ll talk with the applicant and see if we can find an alternative,” Winter Springs Senior Planner Nick Tafelsky said. 

“The words you said about being able to work with us are very encouraging,” McCann said to Boonaccordo.

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