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Council to Rewrite Ordinance For Sidewalk Cafés In Downtown


Specially Written for The Westfield Leader

The Westfield Town Council will make an overall review of the town’s sidewalk café ordinance later this year, given the fact the five current holders of the licenses are each in violation of at least one of the provisions of the law, which was approved a few years ago by the council to enhance the downtown ambiance.

Officials said Tuesday night that the council may also want to study the boundaries of the ordinance. Currently, the cafés are only permitted in the central business district. The owner of a delicatessen on Prospect Street has asked the council for permission to put in a café at his business, which is located in a residential zone.

The Laws and Rules Committee, chaired by Fourth Ward Councilman Lawrence A. Goldman, has indicated it will take a look at the entire ordinance after the October 31 close of the cafés. Officials did not get into the specifics of the violations by current café operators.

Also at issue is the location of the cafés. Currently, they are only allowed on public property, namely the sidewalks in front of the establishments.

"We have violation notices out against every one of them," said Town Administrator Edward A. Gottko.

Town Attorney Charles H. Brandt noted that the town’s zoning officer has been instructed not to enforce the ordinance at this time since it is being rewritten for next year’s café season.

In responding to a question from Third Ward Councilman John J. Walsh regarding why cafés are not allowed on private property, Mr. Gottko explained that town zoning ordinances do not allow the outdoor consumption of food and alcohol on private property.

Mr. Gottko said that Councilman Goldman has indicated that rather than fixing holes in the current ordinance, it was his intention to rewrite the entire ordinance.

Currently, the Brick Oven, Bruegger’s Bagels, the Towne House, Ferraro’s and Vivian’s Kitchen have cafés. In addition to the delicatessen, a South Avenue bakery is also seeking a permit for a café. Currently, sidewalk cafés are not permitted in that area.

Bruegger’s, it has been noted, is in violation since its table umbrellas contain the name of the establishment. Commercial advertising is not allowed on such umbrellas.

One of the major concerns among council members has been the size of the cafés and the space allowed for foot traffic on the sidewalks.

In terms of the Prospect Street deli, Councilman Goldman said he would favor changing the hours of the ordinance that currently allows the cafés to open as early as 6 a.m. He noted that a 9 a.m. starting time would be better if the boundaries of the ordinance are extended into the residential area on Prospect.

Councilman Goldman noted that a petition regarding the starting time was received by council members.

Mr. Gottko noted that a few retail businesses have complained the cafés are blocking their front window displays. Sealfons representatives, he said, have made such a complaint about the Bruegger’s café, while Rafters has made similar comments regarding the Brick Oven’s outdoor seating area.

In addition, complaints have been received by officials regarding Ferraro’s café. Mr. Gottko noted the narrow sidewalk area and the fact that Ferraro’s uses this for its valet parking service for patrons as some of the concerns addressed by residents. Patrons also pull up in their cars to run inside for pick-up orders near where the tables are currently set up, it was noted.

"The concept of what the sidewalk café ordinance was intended to do and what we have today is just entirely different than what was first envisioned," said Mr. Gottko, explaining that there are many more restaurants coming into the downtown that are interested in the cafés.

In other business, a resolution will be included on the agenda this Tuesday night, August 5, which will allow the Board of Education to use Clark Park for Roosevelt Intermediate School physical education classes. The park will only be available to the school district during school hours. Organized sports leagues will not be permitted to use the park.

On another matter, a brief discussion was held over a proposal by former Councilman Kenneth MacRitchie to place a barricade on Myrtle Avenue at the Garwood border. Mr. MacRitchie has said Garwood has a barrier on its side of the street to prevent commercial traffic from the Dan Swayze commercial site from entering the residential part of the street in the borough.

However, these trucks are exiting the property via the Westfield portion of the street, thus the barricade proposal. A resident in the area said he would like all barricades to be removed. He said he was concerned the barricade proposed by Mr. MacRitchie would block his driveway.

The council agreed to have officials negotiate with Garwood in an attempt to have the existing barricade removed.

The council will also vote on a resolution Tuesday to establish a bird sanctuary along an unused portion of Dunham Avenue and Waite Place. The proposed sanctuary, discussed for some 20 years, has been pushed by Mr. MacRitchie.

The council agreed to add the new Executive Director, Michael La Place, of the Downtown Westfield Corporation (DWC), the governing body for the town’s Special Improvement District, to the municipal employees health benefits plan with the DWC paying the premium for single coverage under a Health Maintenance Organization (HMO) plan.

Mr. Gottko said adding Mr. La Place to the town plan would save the DWC some money while providing no added cost to the town. He explained that Westfield Municipal Library employees have a similar agreement. The HMO costs about $2,200 annually. A single dental coverage plan could also be made available at $29 per month.

It was announced that the County of Union will be repaving Springfield Avenue from the Echo Lake Country Club to the Route No. 22 bridge on Tuesday and Wednesday, August 12 and 13.

First Ward Councilwoman Gail S. Vernick noted that she was in contact with Public Service Electric and Gas regarding the loss of electrical power on the north side of town during a thunderstorm on July 18.

In a letter to Councilwoman Vernick dated July 24, PSE&G Supervising Engineer James Rigler said as many as 35,000 customers may have lost power for an extended time period due to storm damage caused to the utility’s electrical system. Mrs. Vernick, who resides on Munsee Way, said her home was without power for some 24 hours.

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