Starboard Claw took another step closer to approval Nov. 13, when the Dewey Beach Planning and Zoning Commission approved sending a set of recommended conditions for the new restaurant to town council.
Attorney Glenn Mandalas said client Steve “Monty” Montgomery is requesting an expansion of the existing conditional use on the Hammerheads property, proposed as Starboard Claw, to extend to the property behind it at 26 Bellevue St. Plans call for both properties to be combined into one parcel.
“This guy, Steve Montgomery, has a long history in this town,” Mandalas said. “He does it right, and he wants to add that next piece to the town and his operations.”
Mandalas said the request was appropriate because the property is largely surrounded by similar restaurants on all sides and is consistent with the town's comprehensive development plan. The upscale restaurant will have indoor and outdoor dining on two floors, Mandalas said.
Referring to planner Dale Cooke’s comment that parking is “the elephant in the room,” Mandalas said he submitted to the town a request for a code amendment to allow the project to go forward and to revise the parking requirements in the RB 2 zone to mimic Rehoboth Beach’s.
“We looked to the north and we looked to the south,” Mandalas said. “We looked at Lewes, Rehoboth Beach and Bethany Beach. If this proposal were submitted to any of those jurisdictions today, the off-street parking requirement would be zero.”
Mandalas said that fact was why those towns have outpaced Dewey Beach in offering upscale dining. He asked planners to consider the proposal and plans as they are today as if relief from the parking requirement had been granted. Per town code, Starboard Claw would need to provide 19 off-street parking spaces, based on its patron area square footage.
Town Counsel Fred Townsend said the conditional-use application is required of any restaurant, along with a certificate of compliance. Townsend said planners could not resolve the parking issue, but could refer the application to commissioners contingent upon resolution of parking; the applicant requested a waiver of 17 off-street parking spaces.
Planner Dave Lyons said the commission had received comments from eight people before the meeting, all in favor of the restaurant. During public comment, two property owners stated they were also in favor but wanted to ensure conditions, most of which were detailed and agreed to by the applicant, were met.
Montgomery said he understood many conditions are meant to ensure the restaurant does not become solely a bar.
“We’ve already got the greatest bar in Dewey Beach at The Starboard, so we don’t want to compete against that place. I had to get that plug in,” Montgomery said to laughter from the audience. “It’s still a crab house, but it’s a Pottery Barn crab house.”
Working from a 2014 conditional-use approval for Dewey Beer Co., which at the time was a nonexistent brewpub, and referencing the existing conditional use for Hammerheads, planning and zoning commission Chair Mike Harmer reviewed conditions with the applicant for compliance.
During the public hearing, one commenter proposed the addition of benches on the sidewalk for patrons waiting for their tables.
Cooke said the town could not force the applicant to control a public spot. He said it was not the applicant’s job to provide a waiting area on the street, but it is the town’s job to consider if there is a way to solve the potential problem.
Resolving the parking issue is also a matter for town commissioners to solve, Cooke said; they could change code or the applicant could request a waiver.
Harmer said the restaurant would be an improvement for the town and that residents’ concerns are being addressed as much as possible.
Proposed conditions include operating hours no earlier than 7 a.m. and no later than 1 a.m., no outdoor speakers, no-smoking outdoor areas, inside speakers directed toward the interior, decks closed and cleared by 11 p.m., and a fence and landscaping barrier between the restaurant and adjoining residential property.
“The motion is contingent upon resolution of the parking issue,” Townsend said.
The conditional-use application is not on town commissioners’ Nov. 19 agenda, but commissioners are set to discuss parking requirements and possibly refer the issue to the planning and zoning commission to provide recommendations for residential and RB2 parking requirements.