Downtown Lorena

Lorena city leaders are looking into options for allowing food trucks to serve in the community.

Staff photo — Rod Aydelotte

The city of Lorena is moving forward with plans to test a pilot program to allow food trucks to operate within city limits.

City Manager Joseph R. Pace gave a presentation Monday to the city council after two months of research covering a variety of topics regarding allowing the added food service.

The council directed Pace to schedule a public hearing to receive additional feedback from residents and business owners. Councilman J. Fagner also encouraged Pace to include surveys and seek feedback through social media networks.

The council agreed to look into implementing a pilot program to allow for a trial run. Pace described possible locations to host food trucks, including McBrayer Park, which extends to Center Street just across a railroad track from the main section of downtown, as well as property the city owns adjacent to City Hall.

Pace said the latter property has been on the market for $90,000 for the past eight to nine months and has not received much interest.

Implementing a permanent food truck park there may require installing bathrooms, which would cost about $50,000, Pace said. The funding could be recouped through sales tax money, he said.

However, the park downtown already has new and improved bathroom facilities, along with shaded areas from a large number of trees, he said.

The Lorena Economic Development Corp. and the Greater Lorena Chamber of Commerce prompted discussion to gauge interest in allowing food trucks, Pace said.

Setting limits

The permitting process could narrow down what type of food trucks are allowed, as well as hours and days they are allowed to operate, Pace said.

“What we’re trying to do is keep out the roach coaches or the not-so-nice-looking and dirty food trucks,” he said. “People I do talk to in the community say they are interested in them.”

Fagner said he favors the idea of allowing food trucks but also supports the pilot program as a trial run to ensure the option is a good fit.

“This is something that would be very forward-facing for Lorena to entertain and get into,” Fagner said.

Councilwoman Kelly Yarbrough, who is also board secretary of the economic development corporation, said she liked the idea of a pilot program because allowing food trucks only for events would not give them much use. She said while some cities have frequent events, Lorena has few of them during certain months.

Yarbrough said while she likes the idea of bringing more people downtown to eat, there are not many options to eat on the same side of Interstate 35 as City Hall.

“I’m intrigued by the idea of putting something in the open area next to us,” Yarbrough said.

Police Chief Tom Dickson said his main concern is ensuring pedestrian and vehicular safety based on where food trucks are allowed to park.

“I don’t see a big public safety issue at all,” he said.

Cassie L. Smith has covered county government for the Tribune-Herald since June 2014. She previously worked as a reporter for the Beaumont Enterprise and The Eagle in Bryan-College Station. Smith graduated from the University of Texas at Arlington.