With pandemic-related policies related to outdoor dining on private property set to expire Nov. 1, Rehoboth Beach commissioners have scheduled a public hearing on a change in city code that would expand patios from 750 square feet to 1,000 square feet.
The hearing will take place during the commissioner meeting Friday, Sept. 16.
Earlier this year, commissioners approved a policy for outdoor dining on public space, which allows for two- and four-top tables along the façade of a building so long as the minimum width of a pedestrian access route can be maintained – 7 feet on most downtown Rehoboth Beach sidewalks; however, the minimum is 8 feet in the second block of Rehoboth Avenue and 10 feet in the first block.
After months of discussion on different patio size options, commissioners voted 5-2 in favor of setting the public hearing during a meeting Aug. 19. Commissioners Tim Bennett and Jay Lagree were the no votes.
Bennett said he is in favor of unlimited square footage, so long as a restaurant can meet fire safety measures and the rules set by the Alcoholic Beverage Control Commissioner.
Lagree said he doesn’t think patio dining should be set on square footage at all. He said he would prefer to see it based on the number of seats.
Commissioners may have moved forward with the possible expansion of outdoor dining patios, but they ended discussion related to permitting restaurant dining patios on an abutting parcel not owned by the same property owner. City code does not currently allow that to happen.
Over the past few months, commissioners had discussed different ways to change the code to allow for this option – signed affidavits; special exceptions – but ultimately the votes weren’t there to continue to move forward.
Commissioners Patrick Gossett and Toni Sharp said the city already provides restaurants the ability to try to get a patio like this approved through the board of adjustment.
The status quo does everything the city needs for businesses and residents, said Sharp.
Commissioner Edward Chrzanowski said he was in favor of amending the code to allow this option because restaurant customers have shown they want more outdoor dining options. Not allowing this to happen is encouraging the development of these open lots for bigger and louder uses, he said.
The public hearing on expanding patio regulations will take place in the commissioners room of city hall, 229 Rehoboth Ave., at 2 p.m., Friday, Sept. 16. A full agenda and meeting materials will be available on the city’s municipal website at cityofrehoboth.civicweb.net.