PALMETTO -- Updates to Palmetto's outdoor eating and drinking ordinance are ready for a public hearing after months of debating how it would impact local businesses while relieving residents of potential problems associated with attracting more entertainment style establishments.
Among the key issues commissioners struggled with were defining outdoor eating areas, whether existing businesses would be grandfathered and enforcement issues. Ward 2 Commissioner Tambra Varnadore repeatedly asked, "Is this ordinance even necessary if the noise ordinance addresses excessive noise anyway?"
As originally written, the outdoor eating and drinking ordinance would have
required all local establishments with outdoor dining, including fast food restaurants, to apply annually for a conditional use permit. The city would retain the right to revoke the permit if the businesses violated either the newly proposed ordinance or the recently passed noise ordinance.
If a business loses its conditional use permit granted by the proposed ordinance, it would essentially have to shut down its outdoor area.
"We made adjustments from that prior draft and reoriented it toward those businesses using outdoor amplification equipment," said city attorney Mark Barnebey. "It makes clear that a conditional use permit is only required for those businesses."
The new draft addresses grandfathering by essentially eliminating all existing businesses with outdoor dining from a grandfather clause, but will allow them up to a year to comply with the ordinance and obtain a conditional use permit.
Varnadore again questioned the need for the ordinance, but said if it was to move forward then it should also address the potential of businesses that don't have amplification equipment, but could have a large outdoor seating area big enough to host large crowds and other activities. She suggested businesses with a certain number of seats be included in the requirement to obtain a conditional use permit even if they did not use amplification equipment.
Varnadore gained the support from Ward 1 Commissioner Brian Williams, but the remaining commission would not follow suit for a consensus.
The commission agreed to language that would require annual renewals and if a business has two or more noise violations in a 12-month period, it would trigger a hearing in front of the commission to determine whether its conditional use permit could be revoked. At Large Commissioner Tamara Cornwell raised concerns about how violators would be tracked, but staff expressed confidence in their own internal communication.
"We don't have all these little isolated sections of government I think we used to have," said Public Works Director Allen Tusing. "We are a team and we work as a team."
Barnebey suggested moving the ordinance to a public hearing at the next city commission meeting, "and you can always make additional changes at that hearing."
Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter @urbanmark2014.