Some food-truck operators say the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic has upped demand from residents working remotely at home, but Delaware city zoning regulations put a stop to the mobile restaurants' visits to residential areas in May.

"The demand for residential food-truck stops arose from local residents' desire to have a variety of food options nearby while observing Ohio's stay-at-home order," a press release from the Central Ohio Food Truck Association said.

"COFTA has worked closely with the City of Columbus, Hilliard and many other local municipalities to develop ... relationships that benefit both the small business owners and the community members represented. ... Most municipalities COFTA serves have been willing to temporarily suspend any existing zoning ordinances that would prohibit mobile food vendors from operating in residential areas," the release said.

Delaware zoning officials notified food-truck operators they are prohibited from serving residential areas within the city limits, citing a zoning-code section limiting food-truck operations to nonresidential private property by permit, COFTA said.

Tom Cook, a resident of Delaware's Shelbourne Forest neighborhood, west of U.S. Route 23 on the city's north side, said he had set up a schedule of food trucks to serve the area.

"Once we were made aware the trucks were not allowed on the street, we had many volunteers to host in their driveways, but we were informed that they could not operate even on private residential property," Cook said.

The Taquitos food truck operated by Tiffany Sweitzer and her husband had visited two Delaware neighborhoods before the city notified them about the zoning code, she said.

"Both neighborhoods love food trucks and responded very well. ... Shelbourne residents actually messaged and were very upset and angry" at the truck's departure, Sweitzer said.

Glynis Armentrout, owner of the Wicked Lobstah food truck, said his truck had visited the Heatherton subdivision south of West William Street before the city intervened.

"At Heatherton, people were very happy to see us there," Armentrout said.

The truck visit was convenient for those working from home, and customers were happy to support Wicked Lobstah as a business, he said.

His truck has been able to operate in other municipalities, including Hilliard and Powell, he said.

Anna Subler, the city of Hilliard's communications administrator, said the city has issued "temporary food-truck permits ... to those food trucks that are supporting Hilliard businesses or Hilliard residential neighborhoods."

An application was posted online, and the permits were issued without a fee, she said.

Megan Canavan, Powell's communications director, said food trucks may operate on a public street or public parking place with a temporary-use permit issued by the parks and public-services director. A food truck operating on private property requires a temporary zoning certificate, she said; both the permit and certificate have a $100 fee.

Daniel McCarthy, COFTA director of marketing, said Delaware wants to prevent food trucks from taking business away from restaurants.

Lee Yoakum, city community-affairs coordinator, on May 22 said the city's food-truck permit process "ensures that food trucks are able to operate safely and successfully and that our local-owned and -operated restaurants and food-service businesses -- with a long-term investment in our community -- continue to thrive."

The COFTA press release said the ordinance on food trucks was approved in 2012, and "since that time, food trucks have become a common and accepted part of the restaurant and food-service industry.

Yoakum said May 27 that "there seems to be confusion and misunderstanding on the part of (COFTA).

"Our plan to fix that is working directly with them to determine if there is a better way for their industry and the city to come together while meeting our regulatory requirements," he said. "We're trying to do that now while putting our city back together from a pandemic and a flood."

Delaware City Council on June 8 approved a loan program to aid small businesses reopening in the wake of Ohio's closure of nonessential businesses, as well as a grant program to aid small businesses affected by the pandemic and a May 19 flood that affected large areas near Delaware Run.

COFTA president Zach James on June 22 said the organization had received no communication from the city regarding the plan Yoakum mentioned and had not communicated with the city since May 27.

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