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Village to study parking in third year of restaurant moratorium

The moratorium, originally enacted in January 2017, excludes restaurants opening in previous dining locations, and new restaurants with fewer than 20 seats.

The Village of Babylon has extended its partial moratorium on new restaurants for a third year through 2019 and will embark on a parking study, as some patrons and restaurateurs question the moratorium's impact.

Citing continued parking concerns and a desire to increase variety among village businesses, the mayor and village trustees voted unanimously Tuesday to extend the moratorium originally enacted in January 2017. The moratorium excludes restaurants opening in previous dining locations, and new restaurants with fewer than 20 seats.

The village's parking study will begin with a review of other municipalities' parking policies, Village Attorney Gerard Glass said. The village may consider adding an ordinance that requires parking for new establishments.

Village resident Tom Bruckner said one consequence of the moratorium has been hourslong wait times at village restaurants. He said at Tuesday's meeting he goes to Bay Shore to dine for quicker service.

Speaking at the board meeting, Bruckner, who used to own a restaurant elsewhere, said, “If I was a restaurant owner, I’d love this moratorium.”

Bill Wolf, owner of the Argyle Grill & Tavern and Barrique Kitchen & Wine Bar, is one of those people. He runs the newly created Babylon Restaurant Committee and supports the moratorium extension. 

He thinks there are too many restaurants in the village and sees parking as a problem.

“It’s a very tight parking situation,” he said.

But Jacqueline DiDonato, president of the Babylon Village Chamber of Commerce and owner of Pandemonium Boutique, a women’s clothing store, said, “I never have a parking problem here.”

People want to park right in front of the business “and that’s not really reality in a city or a village,” she said.

In the two years since the partial ban was enacted, DiDonato said she has seen a couple of new retail businesses open and is “on the fence” about continuing the moratorium.

“What we were hoping with the moratorium is it would bring in more retail,” she said, adding retailers still face steep rents.

Richard Friedman, former owner of the shuttered Lo-Man Outdoor Store, wrote a letter to the village board, explaining his opposition to the moratorium stemming from his inability to lease or sell his building.

“We have not had a single non-food-and-beverage retailer willing to take the space in over two years,” he wrote.

The village should accept that consumer buying habits have changed, and traditional retail spaces are fewer, Friedman wrote.

Eric Alexander, executive director of Vision Long Island, a downtown planning organization, said, “What’s fueling downtowns is restaurants and bars, and that’s the market, so you can’t ignore that.” 

While traditional retailers are desired, he said a partial ban can only go so far in attracting them.

“There’s a point where the market’s the market. You can’t change a national tide of Amazon-type retailing.”

Mayor Ralph Scordino disagreed with the idea that attracting traditional retail is too difficult. "We're going slow on this to make sure we get a diverse district with different retail," he said. "It's important to downtown."

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