The Arlington County Board has ruled that food vendors in Arlington will be allowed to park their trucks to sell food at lunchtime for a maximum of two hours in legal parking spaces.
The ruling is part of a package of amendments to the county's vendor regulations adopted Saturday by the board.
According to Rebecca Bowman, an investigator with Arlington's citizens assistance and information department who worked on the package, Arlington's laws governing the county's more than 100 licensed vendors needed clarification.
"There was a lot of ambiguity there," she said.
The problem was made apparent last spring, she said, when food vendor Henry Headen filed a complaint with her department. Headen, who with his wife had been selling food from his truck on Crystal City's Clark Street for more than three years, had been arrested and convicted for parking in a no-parking zone.
Bowman said the incident highlighted some legal inconsistencies in the county code.
While a 1958 ordinance prohibited vendors from selling goods from motorized vehicles parked on a street, a 1979 ordinance seemed actually to define certain vendors as merchants who traveled by foot or vehicles and operated on sidewalks and streets.
The board's action Saturday makes it legal for Headen to sell sandwiches from his truck, but only if he can find a legal parking space and only for two hours during the lunch period.
Headen, who was allowed to return to work in June while the county began to review the law, spoke at Saturday's meeting and asked the board to let him continue to work on Clark Street. "I feel we're good for Crystal City," he said. "I serve people who only have 45 minutes for lunch. We don't block traffic. We don't cause any problems."
Headen said after the meeting that he was unhappy with the board's decision because legal parking is often unavailable on Clark Street. He said he will probably have to find a new location.
"You just don't build a clientele overnight," he said. "Monday, the customers won't know where we are."
In addition to approving the two-hour lunchtime regulation, the board voted to allow vendors to park in legal spaces at other times when they are hailed by customers and to remain there as long as the meter allows or as long as they have customers, whichever is shorter.
The amendments adopted by the board on Saturday also prohibit vendors from setting up shop on a sidewalk 10 feet wide or less and from selling from road median strips.
They require all peddlers (a category that does not include food vendors) to buy surety bonds and display their permits.
Bowman said the citizens assistance and information office is assembling a task force that is to address more thoroughly the vendor situation. One of the ideas the group will study, she said, is the possibility of zoning vendors.
"Our goal is not to outlaw vendors," she said. "The last thing we have in mind is putting vendors out of business.
"We want to allow vendors to vend as freely as possible, taking into consideration safety and traffic concerns."
Bowman said the department is putting together a comprehensive list of vendor regulations that is expected to be ready later this month.
She said the regulations will be clear about what vendors "can and cannot do."