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Planning Board reviews outdoor dining ordinance

Date: 7/26/2011

July 27, 2011

By Debbie Gardner

Assistant Editor

AGAWAM — The Planning Board returned a proposed Outdoor Dining Ordinance to the City Council with recommendations following its July 21 meeting.

The ordinance, proposed by City Councilor George Bitzas, would have given restaurants in Agawam a by-right ability to create an outdoor dining space without applying for a special permit.

Director of Planning and Community Development Deborah Dachos told the board that Bitzas had been invited to the meeting. He did not attend.

Planning Board Chairman Travis Ward said he was concerned about the blanket permission for restaurants to establish outdoor dining facilities because “Agawam has a lot of screwy lots” and the spaces could vary widely in ambience, patron safety and comfort.

Dachos said the individuals who drafted the ordinance did not want to impose the burden of a special permit on restaurants, and thus wrote the ordinance as by right. She said the Town Solicitor could be asked to establish criteria that would give the town’s Building Inspector guidelines for issuing permits.

Planning Board member David Chase said the board had sifted through a great deal of information regarding outdoor dining from other communities. He asked Dachos if as presented “this was a good ordinance?”

Dachos said it was all right, but would be stronger with criteria or a special permitting process.

‘I’d hate to see it in six months, when [a restaurant] came before the Planning Board with a site plan and we wished it was by special permit,” Dachos said.

Planning Board member Michael Morassi urged that the board recommend adding special permit language to the ordinance to protect the abutters of restaurants.

Planning Board member Mark Paleologopoulos said he would like to request restaurants provide more details to their outdoor facilities, and possible require a special permit before issuing permission.

Dachos told the board that they could return the ordinance to the city council, saying that the board would support the measure as amended.

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