The View From Ward 2
Outdoor Dining Resolution Passed
At a Special Council Meeting held on May 21st, City Council unanimously passed Resolution No. 2020-31, authorizing the Planning Commission to grant temporary conditional use permits for outdoor/seasonal dining facilities during this state of emergency to qualifying applicants.
The intent of the resolution is to allow bars and restaurants to expand their outdoor dining areas to allow for more room for social distancing. The thought is that adding more space will allow the restaurant to serve a similar amount of people they typically serve, while providing the required 6 feet distance between seating areas.
To understand the impact of the resolution it is important to understand the normal process for bars and restaurants to obtain conditional use permits for outdoor dining. Typically, for a restaurant to obtain a conditional use permit for outdoor dining they must apply and get approval from the Planning Commission. Additionally, the Architectural Board of Review must approve all design plans. The Planning Commission uses Lakewood Codified Ordinances 1161.03 SUPPLEMENTAL REGULATIONS FOR SPECIFIC USES and 1129.13 1129.13 SUPPLEMENTAL REGULATIONS FOR OUTDOOR/SEASONAL DINING FACILITY when determining if an applicant should receive a permit. The Planning Commission is also free to add any conditions that it deems appropriate. All applications are heard at a public meeting where residents can voice their concerns.
The resolution allows the Planning Commission to waive any of the requirements contained in Lakewood Codified Ordinances 1161.03 and 1129.13 but only if the Planning Commission finds that by a two thirds vote that the waiving of the requirement will not cause substantial harm to the health and safety of the public and is in accordance with the Community Vision. For instance, 1161.03(t) requires that the outdoor dining area is directly adjacent to the restaurant. If an applicant would like to have outdoor dining in an area that is not directly adjacent to its restaurant, like in a parking lot, then she would have to provide a plan and ask the Planning Commission to waive the requirement. The Planning Commission can approve that plan only if two thirds of the members present vote and agree that waiving that requirements will not cause substantial harm to the health and safety of the public and is in accordance with the Community Vision.
The resolution also creates added protections for residents. For one, no entertainment or speakers are permitted in these areas, they cannot be in use after 10:00pm, and if there is a temporary or permanent structure being proposed then the Planning Commission must obtain an opinion from the appropriate safety department, Building Department and/or City Engineer.
The resolution does not give carte blanche to business to start putting tables on the street or to shut down streets as they see fit. There is a transparent and open approval process through the Planning Commission that applicants still must go through to receive a conditional use permit under this resolution. Additionally, the permit is only valid until October 31st or when the state of emergency is over, whichever is first.
I drafted the resolution in a way that allows applicants to get as creative as they can and for the Planning Commission to allow for creative solutions as long as they find that it will not cause harm to the health and safety of the public. Melt, El Carnicero, Cleveland Vegan, Salt+, Harry Buffalo, LBM, Mars Bar, and Mahall’s have already submitted applications. Those applications will be considered at the June 4th Planning Commission Meeting. Please visit http://www.onelakewood.com/accordions/planning-commission/ for instructions on how to participate in the meeting.
To gain a better understanding of the deliberative process that Council engaged in that lead to the passing of this resolution I encourage you to visit http://www.onelakewood.com/councilvideos/ and view the May 18 Council Meeting, May 19 Housing, Planning, & Development Committee, and May 21 Special Council Meeting. This resolution was thoroughly discussed during all three meeting and included input from the Fire Chief, Chief of Police, business owners, and residents that chose to participate. I think you will find that the resolution was debated at length and improved throughout those meetings.
A previous version of this resolution contained specific language regarding parklets. Parklets are “public seating platforms that convert curbside parking spaces into vibrant community spaces. Also known as street seats or curbside seating, parklets are the product of a partnership between the city and local businesses, residents, or neighborhood associations. Most parklets have a distinctive design that incorporates seating, greenery, and/or bike racks and accommodate unmet demand for public space on thriving neighborhood retail streets or commercial areas.” City Council voted 4-3 to remove that language. The purpose of that language was to signal that as a city we are interested in exploring the concept of parklets. Members that wanted to remove the language believed that the City was not ready to review such requests and did not want restaurants to spend too much time or resources creating plans.
We had a robust and productive discussion about parklets at the Housing, Planning, & Development Committee meeting held on May 27th. Council in partnership with the mayor will work to create guidelines for temporary parklets. We hope to have the guidelines completed in the near future so that businesses can utilize this resource this summer.
On May 25th, George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer. Sadly, George Floyd’s death is not an anomaly. The number of people of color whose lives were cut short by the police is overwhelming. The killing of George Floyd has ignited a passion amongst us that has burnt away decades of apathy. I have often described white privilege as the power of being afforded the benefit of the doubt. I cannot imagine the burden of having to constantly prove to those around you that you are not a threat. It must be exhausting, the never-ending exercise of making those around you comfortable with your existence.
Nearly ten years ago, when I worked with Empowering and Strengthening Ohio’s People, I met a woman from Mt. Pleasant that shared a story about her son. Growing up, her son was respectful and incredibly hardworking. Every day after school he would go to the bus stop to get to his afterschool job. He was never late. Until, one day, a police officer stopped, and strip searched him at the bus stop. Why was he suspicious? Because he was at the stop at the same time, every day. His mother told me that the incident had a great impact on him, and he was never the same. He quit that job and eventually started down a path that led to his incarceration.
You can’t win for losing. You can do everything right your whole life, but if your skin is a certain color, then to some that’s all that matters, that is all that defines you. That anger, exhaustion, and exasperation sparked protest throughout the country, including here in Cleveland. We saw images of people marching in solidarity, and images of people being destructive; images of police being supportive, and images of police brutality. The message is clear. Enough is enough. As a country we never truly grappled with our history of racism and it is about time we start listening when communities are telling us that something is wrong. I will continue listening and working to bend the arc of the moral universe towards justice.
If you are interested in subscribing to the newsletter please visit https://mailchi.mp/shachnerforlakewood/newsletter. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to e-mail me at Jason.Shachner@lakewoodoh.net or call me at (216) 714-2150.
Jason Shachner is the Ward 2 Lakewood City Councilmember. He is currently serving as an Assistant Prosecuting Attorney in the Lake County Prosecutor's Offices' Criminal Division. He makes his home in Lakewood. with his wife, Michelle, and their 13-year-old shepherd mix, Tessie.