Tucson food truck park works to fix zoning violations

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — The Pit opened this year and became a popular spot to grab a bite. The small operation quickly grew in size as more locals caught word of it, but City Code Enforcement says it grew a little too quickly.

Amber Donahue is the co-founder of The Pit, a food truck park in East Tucson. She says this space was originally a gas station, but more recently was an empty, unused lot.

“We’re told often that this corner was the worst corner in Tucson for the longest time because it just had been neglected,” Donahue said.

Donahue and her team took months to transform it into a community gathering space. Now it’s home to six family-owned food trucks, with 31 different trucks rotating in throughout the month.

“Once we opened, it became so popular so quickly that it didn’t even fit what we thought it was going to be,” Donahue said.

Donahue says the grand opening brought in 2,000 people, and momentum continues to grow. To accommodate the large crowds, The Pit added lights, seating, and signs. But the City says that’s not allowed under their current “No change of use” permit.

“In this case, it was the site changes that triggered the attention of code enforcement,” said Nicholas Ross with Tucson’s Planning & Development Services,

The city wants to change the zoning permit to one that allows site changes. Ross says there’s a clear path forward.

“There may need to be a few tweaks on the site to comply with some of those setbacks or buffers I mentioned earlier, but there’s nothing I’m seeing right now that would prevent them from operating at this location,” Ross said.

This new permit would require a development plan. Donahue says she’d have to hire an architect, engineer, and an attorney to put it together, which would be costly.

“We have no desire to develop this property into anything, the property is so degraded and old that it really would take millions of dollars,” Donahue said.

The owners are meeting with code enforcement next week. Donahue says she’s requesting a special exception permit.

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