F.V. gives guidance to cottage food businesses

Cottage food operators now have a few more guidelines to follow when cooking or baking in Fountain Valley.

The Fountain Valley City Council voted 4 to 1 on Tuesday to modify city code to allow for the operation of cottage, or home-based, food businesses. Mark McCurdy dissented.

State law was amended last year to permit these operations in residential areas, superseding the city's existing zoning code that had prohibited them, said Andy Perea, planning and building director.

Fountain Valley's new regulations comply with and expand on state law to address concerns associated with running a small business in a neighborhood, including noise and traffic.

"The state was silent on a lot of things that we felt were important to protect the residential area of the community," Perea said at the March 4 City Council meeting.

Perea cited business-related signage and the number of commercial vehicle trips allowed per day as examples of items left out of the state law.

As of March 1, Orange County reported 183 cottage food operations, three of which are in Fountain Valley, according to city staff: Frosted Heaven Cupcakes, Sugar Sweet Cakes and Treats, and Traditional Twist Cookies and Sweets.

The law requires cottage food businesses to provide one off-street parking space for customers, which McCurdy said could be a slippery slope for people such as piano teachers who run other operations from their homes.

Perea said the ordinance did not apply to other home-based businesses.

McCurdy said he was concerned about burdensome policies, especially because the level of activity of cottage food businesses is relatively low. He said he didn't believe the city had a right to tell people what to do with their own driveways.

"I just don't like regulations. They kind of run opposed to liberty," McCurdy said.

The state's cottage food bill became effective Jan. 1, 2013. It allows individuals in private home kitchens known as "cottage food operations" to prepare and package certain foods, including baked goods, candies, jams and jellies and tortillas, among others.

Operators aren't allowed to produce perishable foods such as meats, cheese and creams.

Cottage food businesses can have only one full-time employee, in addition to the homeowner, and make $45,000 at most in annual sales, according to state law.

Fountain Valley's previous zoning laws didn't allow employment of people other than family members or direct sales in homes. Both of these zoning codes were changed in the new ordinance.

"The cottage food operation shall not generate more than 20 vehicle trips per day," according to the new local law. "Deliveries and customer traffic shall be limited to 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days per week."

The businesses are subject to permits and those that engage in indirect sales may be subject to Orange County Health Agency inspections.

Mayor Michael Vo was supportive of the ordinance at its initial reading March 4.

"I have no doubt that somewhere in the past century, Mrs. Field's Cookies was [a cottage food operation]," he said. "We may eventually have some entrepreneur … who will make Fountain Valley well-known."


Law to curb scavenging

In other action, the council unanimously approved a law that aims to clean up parks and other public spaces by cutting down on scavenging.

Fountain Valley Police Department officials said there have been increased complaints about individuals going through trash containers and scattering garbage or dumping liquid out of recyclable containers, specifically at the recreation center.

The previous law prohibited scavenging in residential containers at curbside and large commercial dumpsters — receptacles picked up by Rainbow Environmental Services — but the new ordinance includes commercial centers, parks and public property.


City may lend space

The council discussed allowing federal, state and local representatives to use its conference rooms to have one-on-one meetings with Fountain Valley residents.

Councilwoman Cheryl Brothers said she heard that state Sen. Lou Correa and Orange County Supervisor Janet Nguyen had expressed interest in setting up satellite offices in Fountain Valley.

Brothers and Councilman John Collins said the sun room at Founder's Village Senior and Community Center would be a good option.

McCurdy said he was skeptical of the timing of this proposal, because it's an election year.

"To the extent it helps our citizens, it's still a good thing," Brothers said.

Collins said the city would have to make sure no campaigning occurred.

The City Council encouraged staff to collect more information about whether other cities in Orange County are allowing satellite offices.

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