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November 21, 2018

Town planners back sign, food truck rule changes

File Photo
SoBo and other food trucks could operate in the Central Business District and other parts of Warrenton if the town council follows the planning commission recommendation.
I think we are very excited about this opportunity to capture new mode of delivering services and food and variety in town and we are really doing everything possible to make them a successful enterprise rather than forcing them to operate with one behind their back.
— Planning Commissioner Ali Zarabi
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
Food truck operators and businesses applying for sign permits could soon have more flexibility in Warrenton.

After two public hearings, the town planning commission Tuesday night voted, 6-0, to recommend approval of zoning text amendments for mobile food vendors and the sign ordinance update.

> Documents at bottom of story

First, planning commission members recommended that food trucks should be allowed to operate in any district zoned for restaurants or public parks, if the mobile kitchens meet certain operating requirements.

No citizens spoke during the public hearing.

Under the changes, food trucks could operate in the central business, industrial and commercial districts on private or public property with a town permit.

The food trucks would have to adhere to the following setbacks, among other rules:

• 100 feet from any residential zoning district.

• 50 feet from any restaurant or with a letter of “no objection” from the owner for a closer location.

• 25 feet from any other permitted mobile food vendor.

“I think we are very excited about this opportunity to capture new mode of delivering services and food and variety in town and we are really doing everything possible to make them a successful enterprise rather than forcing them to operate with one behind their back,” planning commission member Ali Zarabi said.

Without the zoning change, mobile food vendors may operate only in public parking lots at Rady Park and the WARF and on industrially-zoned parcels with property owner approval.

Warrenton’s planning commission also voted, 6-0, to amend the sign ordinance.

Those changes would bring the town into compliance with federal law, based on a Supreme Court decision. The update also would provide clarity and flexibility, according to the town staff.

“We had numerous stakeholder meetings, and we’ve listened to them and responded with more opportunities for signage and more creativity to advertise their business, especially in the historic district,” Planning Director Brandie Schaeffer said in an interview Friday.

The town paid $3,000 for Ohio-based Compass Point Consulting from to help with the signage update process.

The proposed changes would:

• Allow neon and other types of lighting, as well as more sign material flexibility in the town’s historic district, with ARB approval.

• Slightly increase the sign area on buildings and windows in commercial and industrial districts.

• Allow static electronic message center signs in commercial and industrial districts.

• Outlaw fluttering flag, balloon and air-activated temporary signs.

Temporary sandwich board signs on sidewalks would remain legal, but they would need permits, as the town has always required, according to Ms. Schaeffer.

“Only one sidewalk sign is allowed per each first-floor business establishment at one time,” the draft ordinance reads. “Such sign must be located within 10 feet of the entrance of the establishment that owns the sign.”

The sidewalk sign also must have a “minimum width of four feet of clear and passable sidewalk for pedestrians.”

Experience Old Town Warrenton Director Charity Furness gave the only testimony at Tuesday night’s public hearing on the sign ordinance changes.

Ms. Furness encouraged the planning commission to consider the installation “wayfinding” signs in Old Town to point customers toward businesses on side streets.

“I know that a lot of our merchants that have retail establishments and restaurants on side streets in the historic district utilize the A-frame (sidewalk) signs, and they do fear that when those are regulated . . . that their businesses will be harder to find,” she said. “We ask to work together and find some wayfinding.”

Commission Chairman Susan Helander replied: “We have discussed (wayfinding) for a long time and it would be nice to see this move forward.”

The town staff plans to study wayfinding signs and possibly a “gentle enforcement program” after town council adoption of the updated ordinance, Ms. Schaeffer said.

The town council, which makes the final decision on both text amendments, will probably hold public hearings on the food truck and sign zoning amendments next month.

In October, the planning commission conducted a work session on both topics.

Planning commission member Anna Maas missed Tuesday’s meeting.

Contact Cassandra Brown at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or 540-878-6007.

Warrenton planning commission meeting 112018 by Fauquier Now on Scribd

Planning commission sign ordinance update proposal 102318 by Fauquier Now on Scribd

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