CRISFIELD — A new snowball stand on an empty lot on lower West Main Street that had customers lined up during its opening day could lose its privilege to operate if it leaves the property for even a few hours.
That’s the unintended consequence of Crisfield’s zoning code and its food truck ordinance, which was amended last year to be more business friendly.
Wesley and Brittany Ward opened Pay’s SnoShack (named for their daughter Payden) on May 22 to sell shaved ice and soft ice cream from a self-contained trailer.
They planned to take the trailer to Westover June 4 for a Health Department health and wellness field day but had they it could not come back to the newly-landscaped lot located next door to Tim & Doris’s Country Store for 60 days — losing most of their season.
The Wards presented their case to the Mayor and City Council last month and while everyone wants to get it straight even in the most expeditious manner nothing could happen before Saturday, and the council lacks the power to unilaterally grant a special exception.
“We’re finding that there’s quite a bit of frustration with being able to open a business of this type with the provisions primarily in the zoning code,” said City Solicitor Mac Baldwin.
To have a trailer in the Commercial-2 district the zoning administrator grants an occupancy permit for 30 days, and it can be renewed for 60 additional days. This applies to any type of trailer, provided the application process is followed.
However, Mr. Baldwin said, “once that trailer is removed from the property, they lose that right to have the trailer located there” and the Wards would have to wait 60 days to reapply for a permit.
If the property was connected to a building, and the building was the primary structure for the business, the Wards could apply for a variance through the Board of Zoning Appeals, but that is also not the case here as the lot is platted separately.
If the food truck ordinance is followed, the trailer must be a “self-propelled unit.” “A trailer is not going to be categorized as a food truck under the ordinance,” Mr. Baldwin said, although Mr. Ward said the trailer is mobile which means it moves whether pushed or pulled.
And while in the future they intend to build a structure, that also won’t happen in just a few days.
None of the council members objected to removing “self-propelled” from the food truck ordinance, and Mayor Barry Dize asked Mr. Baldwin to expedite a recommendation to get this problem resolved. Mr. Baldwin said he would look into whether this could be considered an “emergency ordinance,” but could not immediately say if it would qualify.
“They’re attempting to bring business to Crisfield,” but to adhere to the code, “they’re having difficulty making it work for them,” he said.
Councilman Mike Atkins quipped that if no one had said anything about this and the trailer was gone for a few hours and returned, “we probably wouldn’t notice” but the others said someone would have likely pointed it out, requiring an investigation.
Since this could not be resolved quickly Mr. Ward said he would not attend the Westover event and jeopardize the business he is building in Crisfield.