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The Prince George’s County Council. (Courtesy Photo)

UPPER MARLBORO — The Prince George’s County Council approved legislation regarding the operation and location of food trucks in the county and fees associated with owning a food truck business, as well as received a briefing on the accomplishments of the county’s domestic violence grant program at their meeting on Oct. 8.

The council approved five resolutions having to do with county food trucks, and speakers were signed up to give their opinions on two of them during the public hearing portion of the meeting.

All five resolutions were discussed and favorably recommended by the Health, Human Services and Public Safety Committee (HHSPS) at their meeting on Sept. 18.

One of the approved resolutions would reduce the fees associated with Mobile Unit Food Service Facilities as outlined in the Table of Fees from $640 to $300.

The resolution also eliminates the technology charge.

According to the HHSPS Committee, the resolution will hopefully stimulate economic development within the county, increase healthy food options, eliminate underserved areas of the county while promoting entrepreneurship and make Prince George’s County more competitive with neighboring jurisdictions.

DMV Food Truck Association Chair and owner of DC Slices Zack Graybill said food trucks have many benefits such as providing jobs, tax revenue and economic development, and lower fees will allow more people to enter the business. The new legislation will encourage more people to open food trucks in the county and usher in a new era that Prince George’s County is open for business.

“While amending and adapting never ends, this legislation speaks volumes,” Graybill said. “Prince George’s County is open to helping small businesses. Prince George’s County is working to be at the front of a progressive, positive food truck environment fueling job growth and bringing in underrepresented, creative and healthy food options.”

Another resolution approved by the council will authorize the creation of a Food Truck Hub in downtown Upper Marlboro, according to council documents. The Food Truck Hub is set to be located at 14525 Church Street and would contain a maximum of six trucks. The Town of Upper Marlboro would be responsible for satisfying the requirements of the Food Truck Hub License.

The county council then approved legislation that would allow incorporated municipalities to regulate food trucks within their jurisdiction and allow food trucks to operate in all Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission Facilities. Municipalities would be responsible for communicating with the Department of Permitting, Inspections and Enforcement (DPIE) about locations of hubs and designation of a coordinator, and fees would be capped at $75.

Finally, they approved a resolution that would encourage the implementation of a Food Truck Healthy Options Certification Program by the Health Department. Food Truck vendors who opt to participate in the program in “healthy food priority areas” would have all food truck hub, licensing and inspection fees waived.

Lori Valentine, chair of the Food Truck Hub Oversight Committee, also spoke in support of the legislation and said that other members of the committee had expressed support as well.

Food truck fees in Prince George’s County are the highest in the region, she said, but “the possibilities are endless” for food truck owners with these new bills because it will give the county a chance to support a vibrant food truck communities like surrounding jurisdictions.

“The legislation before you embodies the collective effort of the Food Truck Hub Committee and promotes the type of new dining experiences that are taking place all around the region,” Valentine said to the council.

At the end of the meeting, the council received a briefing on the county’s domestic violence grant.

According to Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee Director Howard Stone, the county allocates $500,000 per year towards the grant, which is awarded to nonprofit organizations working to assist victims of domestic violence throughout the county. As of fiscal year 2020, the county has spent a total of $2 million on the grant since it was implemented four years ago. Winners of the next grant cycle will be notified on Oct. 19.

Stone commended the council for positively using the county’s resources, after which Grants Consultant Donna Crocker Mason updated the council on the success of the grant in previous years and things that need to be improved in the future.

In 2017, the county awarded 11 grants. They awarded eight grants in 2018 and awarded 13 in 2019. The program has four focus areas: housing, prevention, counseling and advocacy, and applicants can apply in one area. However, housing has received the least amount of applicants.

“The areas of greatest concern to us right now happen to be within the housing grants,” Mason said. “We’ve done some analysis that helped us look at what areas people write grants for us, and I think because of not as much collaboration as could be, fewer choose housing and fewer choose counseling.”

The county allocated a total of $250,000 to the Department of Family Services budget for housing, and Stone suggested that the council revisit that to see how it was used and what the county could be doing better.

“Let’s figure it out so we can get prepared in the future to tackle this piece around housing because I do think that is our rubicon that we have to cross,” Councilmember Derrick Leon Davis (District 6) said of the issue. “We know that this network of places that are safe for victims of domestic violence has to be created; it has to be collaboratively supported by everyone from the bystander to the courts.”

Within the past year of working with domestic violence organizations in the county, the emphasis has been on collaboration, and building capacity among them, said Mason, who highlighted some successful activities that made an impact in 2019.

These included a collaboration between two nonprofits and the faith community on bystander training, a breakfast roundtable in Bowie that included a survivor panel and programs working specifically with the Spanish-speaking community.

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