Usually, when a group of residents comes before the city Zoning Hearing Board in connection to someone else’s petition, there are objectors among them.
On Wednesday, a group of about 10 showed up for Tyrone Stewart’s request for a special exception to allow him to operate a food trailer that for now is stationary behind his residence on the 2000 block of Seventh Avenue — and all were in support.
They got what they wished, as the board granted the special exception, provided Stewart gets his trailer repaired — so that it once more becomes mobile — within three months, and that he formalizes off-site parking arrangements with a neighboring attorney’s office and a church and sticks to his current mid-day operating schedule.
“Thank you very, very much,” Stewart said after the ruling. “Thank you very much.”
Stewart previously got a minor-impact business license to base the food trailer at his house in the mixed commercial-residential zone — a license that required the trailer to be moveable, according to solicitor Bill Stokan.
His situation became an issue for the board when the freezer broke loose from the frame, preventing the trailer from being towed.
Wednesday’s ruling gives Stewart three months’ grace.
The person he’s relying on to fix the trailer is frequently out of town for work and hasn’t yet committed to a time to make the necessary fix, which will include welding, Stewart said.
When the trailer is again mobile, he’ll be able to sell food wherever it would be otherwise legal to do so, according to officials.
That would include in the current spot behind his residence, according to board member Ted Beam.
The city doesn’t currently have an ordinance that lays out specific restrictions for food trucks, although council has a potential ordinance under review.
To bolster his case, Stewart brought in not only his in-person supporters, but also screen shots of many Facebook testimonials and a notebook with signatures and told about distributing turkeys at Thanksgiving and Christmas and interacting with the many people who pass by in the alley in front of the trailer to access Sheetz and the Altoona schools.
“You need to be commended,” Stokan said.
There’s room on the lot for several cars, and room for many more on the nearby lots of the attorney and the church, which are available based on “verbal” agreements, he said.
No one has objected to his selling his cheesesteaks, hoagies and wings from his trailer, he said.
The sales are takeout, with chairs outside only for customers to wait until their food is prepared — although his children and grandchildren and one of his two employee’s children hang around for longer, he said.
There is no actual loitering, he said.
There is a large vacant lot across the alley, which alleviates worry about the trailer’s potential to annoy neighbors, Stokan said.
The trailer is open for business from 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
“I’m still growing as a small business,” Stewart said. “I’m looking at maybe another three years tops, as I progress and take that step to move to brick and mortar.”
“He does make good food,” said Robert Howard, a customer.
Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 814-949-7038.