Salisbury will update its rules on sidewalk dining

Salisbury City Council members agreed to advance a plan to update rules for outdoor restaurant seating which has allowed operators of some eateries to stay in business during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Mogan’s Oyster House in Downtown Salisbury is among several locations in the heart of the city where outdoor dining has surged in popularity.

Several Downtown restaurants, including Mojo’s, Mogan’s Oyster House and Roadie Joe’s, have opened or expanded existing outdoor seating since they were allowed to reopen with limited capacity.

The proposed changes “cleans up” the existing city code to include rules for operating standards including the sale of alcoholic beverages, cleaning of the sidewalk area and hours of operation, Laura Soper, Director of the city’s Office of Business Development, told council members at a Monday evening work session

Council President Jack Heath said his only concern was that after the city spent the past few years on a Main Street reconstruction plan that created a uniform look for Downtown the code revisions didn’t include a standard for construction and could result in a “mishmash” of designs.

City Administrator Julia Glanz said she and others who worked on the proposed additions to the code discussed the issue at length.

“There was a hearty debate about it,” she said.

In the end, it was decided each restaurant “can have a little bit of its own flare,” Glanz said.

The code does include design standards that set out in detail where the seating area may be placed as well as the type of furniture that can be used.

Each restaurant’s plan must get the approval of the city Department of Infrastructure and Development and the Fire Marshal, as well as the Historic District Commission if it is located in the Downtown area.

Warehouses

City Council members also agreed to proceed with a proposal to allow empty stores in shopping centers to be used as warehouse space, something that is not currently permitted under the city zoning code.

The request was initiated by SVN Miller Commercial Real Estate on behalf of Oak Ridge Baptist Church which is seeking to lease space in the former Kmart store, said City Planner Anne Roane.

The 225-foot depth of the building makes it difficult to rent to small businesses, but there has been interest in using the back of the building as warehouse space, SVN Miller Senior Advisor John McClellan said in a letter to city officials.

Changing the zoning rules would be beneficial to shopping centers with large vacancies including the Shoppes at Salisbury, Twilley Center and the Centre at Salisbury, he said.

“We’re seeing more and more of these big box vacancies and it’s hard to do adaptive reuse,” Roane told council members.

In addition to Kmart, several other large retail chains, including Macy’s, JCPenney, Sears and Gander Mountain, have closed their Salisbury stores.

Two public hearings must be held before the change to allow warehouses can be adopted. A hearing was held by the Planning Commission on June 18. A second public hearing will be set by the City Council.

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