Dewey Planning and Zoning Commission unanimously recommended Jan. 4 that town council increase the number of off-season temporary expansions a business may hold.
Currently, businesses can apply for temporary expansions of their patron areas for two special events from Sept. 16 to May 14. For example, The Starboard applies for off-season temporary expansions for opening weekend in March and Dewey Goes Pink in October, when the parking lot is tented and used as additional patron area.
Planning and Zoning Commissioner Mike Harmer said more off-season events would boost the town economically.
“If we can keep the public health and safety at bay, not make a chaotic town, and not scare families away with events and actions that can happen if folks drink too much or whatever, I think I would support it just for the sole economic development standpoint of the town,” Harmer said.
Woody’s owner and Commissioner Jimmy O’Conor said bringing more people into town during the shoulder season would help business, but supported limiting the number of expansions.
Commissioner Rick Judge said he would support increasing expansions if the town has no financial liability and can deny requests. He asked how the topic had come before the commission.
Town Commissioner David Moskowitz said council allowed last year’s Dewey Winter Gala to be held at The Starboard, although it was The Starboard’s third off-season temporary expansion, as a special exception for the Dewey Business Partnership. Moskowitz said any limits on expansions should apply to the location, not the business or outside organization running the event.
After last year’s Gala, Moskowitz said, town commissioners voted in March 2019 to have the planning and zoning commission evaluate increasing the number of expansions, provided they are family-friendly and distinctly different events, and submit a list of pros and cons to town council.
Assistant Town Manager Jim Dedes told commissioners there is a difference between a special event and an expansion of premises. He said the town hosts many special events, mostly races, from April through October that are tough for police to staff. Races don’t typically require an expansion, he said.
Dedes said having a special event and expansion of premises on the same day would be too much for the town to handle, and encouraged coordination in approving requests. Special event applications are decided administratively, while expansion of premises applications are heard by town council, he said.
After some debate on how many expansions to allow, commissioners decided to recommend council allow up to four off-season temporary expansions that are family-friendly, not recurring weekly events, that town council has complete discretion to deny.