At Tuesday’s P&Z meeting, architect Michiel Boender represented Macelleria Italian Steakhouse at 2 South Water Street in Byram, just a block from Port Chester, NY, where major redevelopment of multi story apartment buildings is under way.
Macelleria, which has been a popular dining destination since it opened last summer, seeks a permit to build an outdoor dining deck that would accommodate 75 seats (58 dining table seats and 17 bar seats) overlooking the Byram River.
The item previously came before the commission in October, and the applicant was asked to address their parking non-conformity and landscaping.
Specifically, Conservation had requested specific landscaping upgrades, especially along the river.
P&Z secretary Nick Macri said he had visited the site and noticed vegetation had been removed between the Byram River and the restaurant parking lot.
“I’m looking at a photo from 2018 that shows significant vegetation outside the seawall that seems to be completely gone today. If it was there two years ago, even Nov 2019, where is it now and how did it get cut down? Even that wild vegetation growing out of the seawall provided a little bit of green buffer to the site.”
According to the application materials, although the applicant was proposing to reduce parking spaces by only two for the construction of the deck, two spaces had already been eliminated without review by the commission.
Since the site is non-compliant, the commission asked Mr. Boender to ask his client to restripe the parking lot and add landscaping.
The commission said that before proceeding with the application, the non-compliance had to be addressed.
In the mean time, the commission asked that the restaurant’s 232 indoor seats be reduced to accommodate the four fewer parking spaces.
“The way it works, you can’t increase the non conformity, and somehow in the time since you were approved, you lost two parking spaces, and you will lose two more when you do the deck. So, first, you have to get to the point where your permanent seating meets the parking requirement,” said P&Z chair Margarita Alban.
In response to request for additional landscaping, Mr. Boender said, “I don’t see how we can take out much asphalt there without impacting the size of the parking spaces …and possibly losing any more (parking spaces.)”
Mr. Macri noted that the parking spaces did not appear to be the standard in length or width, and he believed a restriping might yield more parking spaces, which would lessen the nonconformity.
Also, he asked, “If you wind up with more spaces than you need, could one of them be a tree? Because there’s not one green area. You basically have a building and a tree and no green area in the parking lot. Can we actually make this actually better for the restaurant and Byram itself?”
Also, Macri noted, the ADA parking spaces were furthest away from the building. “I thought was kind of odd because there are no ramps,” he said.
Ms Alban said restriping would not be expensive. The commission referred Mr. Boender to building regulations, section 6-185, which specifies site plan dimensions for parking.
“You’re going to standard, and if you get more than 53, toss in a tree,” Alban said. “If you can do that we’ll accommodate you as quickly as we can.”
“We are also going to put some conditions on you because we are always a little worried about large outdoor parties and gatherings that make a lot of noise,” Alban said, adding that there were other restaurants including J House in Riverside and the former Gabriel’s and Luca’s (now Townhouse) on Church Street with conditions limiting hours and amplified sound.
During public comment, Byram Neighborhood Association land use chair Al Shehadi said one of the BNA’s goals was to increase the vibrancy and pedestrian activity of downtown Byram, and toward that end they supported the proposal for outdoor dining.
However he said, the BNA had concerns about enforcement.
Mr. Shehadi said the BNA had been in conversations with zoning enforcement about 21 North Water Street, two blocks away from Macelleria, with “multiple egregious violations” for about a year without resolution.
P&Z director Katie DeLuca said that even if the commission were to approve the outdoor dining deck, there was an annual administrative review process.
“We look to see if there are any zoning violations – so, it’s not automatically granted every year,” DeLuca said.
Mr. Shehadi said the BNA was concerned that without enforcement, the parking issues could spill over into the street.
“The commission is not unaware of the development in Port Chester, and we share your concern,” Alban said.
Shehadi added that the BNA requested landscaping along the river, as suggested by the conservation commission.
He said there were also concerns about sidewalk safety because the sidewalks around the restaurant narrow in places, and there were planters beyond the property line.
“Actually what we’re hoping is the BNA’s land use committee will approach us with ideas about Byram and what you’d like us to do to update the Byram plan, and possibly contemplate an overlay zone that would develop Byram the way you’d like to see,” Alban said. “Pedestrian friendliness could be a part of that.”
The item was left open.