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Public hearings regarding outdoor dining limitations and sidewalk sign bans begin November 1

Village by: Chrissy Ruggeri, October 20, 2022

Sidewalk signs like these outside of the Northport Feed and Grain restaurant could be banned if a proposed law amendment is approved.

During Tuesday evening’s Northport Village Board of Trustees meeting, the board voted 3-2 to approve two public hearings regarding outdoor dining and business signage. The hearings are scheduled separately on November 1 and December 6, with the board expected to vote after each hearing on whether or not to move forward with the proposed local law changes: altering the time periods in which restaurants in the highway business district can offer outdoor dining and the use of sandwich boards for businesses in downtown Northport.

The first proposed law modification involves Northport Village code section 306-18.1 (B) regarding outdoor dining on private property. Two subsections are added to the code in the proposal, one stating that outdoor dining in the Highway Business District (25A) will only be permitted during the period of May 15 to October 15 of each year, and that seating must be adjacent to the restaurant and is prohibited in areas designated for parking in all business districts (including Main Street and Woodbine Avenue). The second subsection prohibits the installation of yurts for outdoor dining.

Before voting on the resolution to schedule the public hearing, Trustee Meghan Dolan asked about the purpose of restricting outdoor dining for the Highway Business District to certain time periods; Mayor Donna Koch responded that it’s to remove tents and outdoor dining during the off-season months. Trustee Dave Weber asked if this law change is directed at one business, alluding to previous discussions about Robkes, currently the only restaurant in the Highway District that’s using a tent for outdoor dining. Trustee Dolan said she doesn’t think it’s right to make a code change that goes after one business when there’s no definitive purpose; if it was a matter of safety or another issue, she said, then a possible change would be warranted.

Regarding the yurts, which are owned by Brew Cheese and used with a Village permit issued during Covid-19, Mayor Koch said that they are down an alley, hidden and out of the way, but she finds their location and electric heaters problematic. “I believe they are a nuisance,” she said.

The board voted 3-2 to schedule a public hearing on this proposed law change for December 6, with Mayor Koch, Trustee Joe Sabia and Trustee Ernest Puchillo approving, and Trustee Dolan and Trustee Weber opposing.

The second proposed law amendment regards Village code section 243-2 and 243-3 concerning sidewalk signs in Central Business A District and Central Business B District, which make up downtown Northport and include Main Street, Scudder Avenue and Woodbine Avenue. The proposed change is one sentence: “Sidewalk signs are not permitted in the Village of Northport in the Central Business A or Central Business B District.” If approved, sidewalk signs (also called sandwich boards) outside of restaurants and storefronts will be banned in an effort to clear the sidewalks and make them easier to navigate, Mayor Koch said. Under the current code, business owners are required to get a permit for sandwich boards and Mayor Koch said that many of them did not go through that process.

Trustee Weber asked if the Village tried to enforce the current code first, before changing the law altogether. Mayor Koch stated that business owners were told to clear the sidewalks in the past, but no citations have been given. With outdoor dining, umbrellas and pedestrians, “something has to give,” she said.

The board voted 3-2 to approve a public hearing on this proposed law change for November 1, with Mayor Koch, Trustee Joe Sabia and Trustee Ernest Pucillo voting in favor, and Trustee Dolan and Trustee Weber opposing the resolution.

Both public hearings will be held at 6pm on their respective dates, at Northport Village Hall. You can read the proposed law changes here.

The Brew Cheese yurts, located in an alley off Scudder Avenue, would have to be removed if a proposed Village law modification is approved after a public hearing on December 6.