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Smithtown board to hear town code amendment request for outdoor dining
A Smithtown architect plans to ask the Smithtown Town Board at its meeting Tuesday to amend its code to allow outdoor dining in a particular zone where it is prohibited.
Mark Mancini discovered that outdoor dining is not permitted in areas zoned WSI — wholesale and service industry — even though restaurants are permitted.
“To me, if you are going to allow restaurants in this zoning, you should allow outdoor dining,” Mancini said. “If the restaurant was in the central business zone in Smithtown, there would be no issue for having outdoor dining at all.”
Mancini also is president of the Greater Smithtown Chamber of Commerce, but stressed he was not representing the chamber’s view in an interview or before the town board.
In October 2012, outdoor dining was permitted as a matter of right, not as a special exception in the central business zone, according to Assistant Town Planning director David Flynn.
Mancini requested a special exception at a zoning board meeting last month to permit a 993-square-foot outdoor dining area at a burger restaurant that he is designing, at 2188 Jericho Tpke. in Commack.
The zoning board did not grant the special exception because outdoor dining isn’t approved in that zone. Zoning board members said Mancini’s suggestion that the “aged” zoning code be reassessed seemed reasonable.
“I think a lot of us agree with you,” zoning board member Anthony Tanzi Jr. said at the April meeting. “But it would be the town board to estimate that, not us.”
Flynn said that since 1984 the department has allowed outdoor dining through a special exception in specific zones, and only for sit-down restaurants. At that time, “nobody was calling for outdoor dining in a Jericho Turnpike situation, with cars whizzing by at 40 mph,” Flynn said. “People envisioned outdoor dining in pedestrian-oriented downtown areas.”
Flynn said the town’s approval two years ago of a special exception for outdoor dining in a WSI zone on the south side of Jericho Turnpike was a “mistake.” The issue came up again last year with the proposal for a Sonic restaurant in Nesconset, which was rejected.
“When Sonic came in, it didn’t occur to us that outdoor dining wasn’t permitted in that zone. Their lawyer brought it up to us,” Flynn said. “We don’t accept these too often.”
Flynn said that he thinks the town board should ask the planning department to look into amending the code.
“Zoning should always be changing to reflect the priorities of the community,” he said. “People’s opinions about what needs to be protected and what doesn’t do change over time.”