Moratorium on expiration of temporary expansions granted in Dewey

Commissioner vote sets Oct. 31 deadline for policy for restaurants
March 25, 2022

Citing benefits to restaurant owners and patrons alike, Dewey Beach commissioners voted unanimously March 18 to impose a moratorium on the expiration of temporary expansion of premises for establishments until Oct. 31.

Outdoor seating expansion permits that were granted administratively to restaurants are set to expire in Dewey March 31. Town Counsel Fred Townsend said commissioners originally adopted the policy to relieve zoning requirements for establishments that were restricted to less-than-full occupancy levels during the pandemic.

This occupancy level restriction was financially harmful to businesses and their employees, Townsend said, so the town approved requests to allow restaurants to expand their patron area to outside areas, which has been beneficial in many ways.

Patrons with health or general concerns about being in confined areas have been able to patronize their favorite establishments in a safer setting, Townsend said, noting he is not aware of any complaints from the public regarding noise from outside patrons.

Mayor Bill Stevens said everyone has enjoyed the availability of outdoor dining, and the only opponent of a permanent outdoor use is town code. 

The resolution imposing the moratorium would allow businesses to continue operating as is while commissioners could potentially review code for possible amendments or have establishments go through the customary conditional-use process, Stevens said.

Dewey’s zoning code calls for an intensive process for restaurant owners seeking an amendment to their conditional-use permits, Townsend said. Restaurants need to be approved via a lengthy case-by-case basis that involves multiple public hearings and recommendations from the planning and zoning commission, Townsend said, and sometimes approvals aren’t granted.

The time period for the moratorium needs to be relatively short, Townsend said, because it directs town staff to not enforce code for the time being.

Commissioner David Jasinksi motioned to approve the resolution imposing the moratorium until Sept. 1. Commissioner Paul Bauer seconded the motion, but proposed moving the deadline to Dec. 31 because Sept. 1 is before Labor Day weekend and it would be difficult to process anticipated applications in that short time period.

Jasinksi amended his motion to set an Oct. 31 deadline, stating that more than six months should be sufficient time.


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