The Feb 23 Board of Selectmen meeting will feature a discussion on seasonal outdoor dining, which runs from April 1 to Nov 20.
The meeting starts at 10:00am in the Cone Room at Town Hall, and is available via Zoom too.
Town Administrator Ben Branyan will do a presentation on proposed guidelines for the month ahead that will allow restaurants to seat people outdoors while still allowing traffic to flow smoothly on Greenwich Avenue.
There will be time for public comment both in person in the Cone Room and via Zoom.
The backstory is that outdoor dining was expanded during the pandemic as an emergency measure so restaurants could operate and people could go out to eat while maintaining a safe social distance.
Street dining was created in parking spaces on Greenwich Ave known as “nodes,” and the P&Z commission, in coordination with the State government, adjusted the dining regulations to allow seating inside the nodes.
Restaurants pay a fee for their jersey barriers and their nodes based on what the town loses from the parking meters taken out of service.
Last July, as the pandemic waned, P&Z held a public workshop on outdoor dining, where people complained about rats and cockroaches, as well as unattractive jersey barrier, and loss of parking.
Also, people commented that traffic would back up when delivery trucks parked along a node. Numerous residents in the Greenwich Avenue area said they had difficulty sleeping at night due to loud amplified music coming from the restaurants.
Also merchants complained about the loss of parking for their customers. There are 408 parking spaces on Greenwich Avenue and the nodes displaced 65 of them.
In September, at a second workshop the P&Z commission clarified whose purview the outdoor dining nodes fell under: The Board of Selectmen can vote to continue the nodes for street dining, but the P&Z commission determines what is allowed inside them.
At that workshop, then P&Z director Katie DeLuca said that townwide, 75 out of 96 restaurants with outdoor dining had racked up violations, mostly with increased number of seats, but also numerous restaurants had outdoor dining without receiving approval or even having submitted an application.
To that end, in December 2022 the commission voted to amend the outdoor dining regulations and put some teeth into the consequences for violations.
Now, the regs feature a restriction on amplified sound and music, language about not obstructing sidewalks, and a much greater emphasis on handicap accessibility.
Dining establishments must provide a minimum 6-foot public walkway pursuant to ADA and CT state building code.
Plans have to show fencing, planters, barricades, trash receptacles, busing stations, lighting, heaters and signage.
The total number of seats indoors and outdoors cannot exceed the restaurant’s legal capacity. So, for example, indoor seats must be removed to compensate for the outdoor seats.
Specifically, plans must show which indoor seats will be removed and indicate whether they will be stored on or off site.
Further, per the revised regs, outdoor dining areas have to be kept clear of litter, food scraps or soiled dishes and utensils at all times. Sidewalks and floors have to be swept at least once a day and cleaned of greases, oils and stains monthly. Spills have to cleaned up immediately and sweeping debris or spills into the gutter is prohibited.
With the previous complaints in mind, the reg features language about punishments for violations.
Click here to submit public comments for the February 23, 2023 Board of Selectmen meeting. Comments will be accepted up until 4:00pm the day prior to the meeting.