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SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — A draft ordinance that would regulate the operation of mobile food trucks in town will go to a public hearing before the Town Council.

The council at its meeting on Nov. 25 authorized the town clerk to advertise for the hearing.

With specialty menus and in many cases farm-fresh and organic offerings, food trucks have exploded in popularity in the past decade. Many communities have welcomed them to area festivals and public gatherings, but laws governing their operation have had to play catch-up.

South Kingstown Special Legal Counsel Amy Goins developed a draft ordinance on Nov. 19 for the council to review.

State legislation passed in 2018 establishes requirements for a statewide registration system, authorizes the town to adopt a local permitting ordinance, and defines the scope of additional regulation that the town may choose to adopt.

Municipal compliance with the law is not required until Jan. 1, 2020.

The new law means that food trucks in town will no longer be considered hawkers or peddlers, Goins said, and the town has the ability to require that food trucks obtain a permit.

The town can’t impose additional requirements for food truck permits beyond those in the law, but has the authority to restrict the number of permits granted, the location and hours of the trucks’ operation and noise.

“Additionally, the town may impose different regulations on food trucks according to the length of time they stop at any given location, i.e., we can set different rules for traditionally mobile food trucks, such as ice cream/lemonade trucks, versus food trucks that typically park at a location for a longer time period,” Goins wrote.

As it does with liquor licenses, the town also has the power to set the maximum number of food truck permits it issues, but isn’t requited to do so, Goins said.

“To this end, we have drafted an ordinance consistent with the state law and regulations. Additional aspects of this ordinance regarding restrictions on location of food trucks are currently under review by the Planning Board,” Goins said. “Our recommendation is for the Town Council to adopt the permitting aspects of the ordinance at this point in time and then adopt additional regulations when and if deemed appropriate.”

Narragansett has hosted summertime food truck nights at the town beach, and in South Kingstown, Sons of Liberty on Kingstown road has also held successful food truck nights.

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