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Westfield Proposes Allowing Rooftop Dining in Central Business District

In August 2018, Westfield’s town council voted unanimously in favor of an ordinance that would allow microbreweries and craft distilleries to operate in Westfield’s central business district (the “CBD Zone”). In October of the same year the Town Council introduced and plans to vote on three new ordinances that would further encourage development in the CBD Zone and other non-residential areas of town. These three new ordinances would permit ground level patio structures for dinning in all non-residential zones, relax parking requirements in the CBD Zone and permit rooftop patio dining to those establishments with direct access to a rooftop in the CBD Zone. These recent ordinances, which only apply to commercial structures and not single-family home or multi-family developments, are all geared towards encouraging development in downtown Westfield.

The relaxed parking requirements would permit business owners who do not meet the parking requirement to bypass the hearing before the Planning Board when they can demonstrate no change or no increase in the parking deficiency by more than thirty spaces. This would afford business owners a substantial cost benefit in not having to appear before the Planning Board.

The proposed rooftop patio ordinance would permit seasonable dining on rooftops in the CBD Zone. However, this opportunity would only be afforded to establishments that are located directly below or adjacent to rooftop access points. Properties which possess other uses on the floors in between the restaurant and the rooftop are not eligible to provide rooftop dining. This caveat restricts many restaurants in the CBD Zone as only a few have direct access to a roof. In order to obtain a rooftop patio approval under the proposed ordinance, the applicant would need to obtain reviewing Board approval in the form of submitting an application, design plan, lighting plan and landscaping elements. Interested applicants will most likely have to obtain the assistance of a structural engineer to prepare these plans and testify at any necessary hearings. The applicant and engineer will need to be prepared to speak about both the anticipated design as well as being able to establish that the roof being considered is structurally sound and able to withstand the added weight of tables, chairs and restaurant patrons. The addition of rooftop patio square footage would not have an impact on the parking requirement for the Applicant as the additional square footage afforded by the roof will not be subject to parking requirements. Importantly, additional requirements will be triggered if an applicant wishes to serve alcoholic beverages in connection with a liquor license on a new rooftop patio. Serving alcoholic beverages in a newly created and unlicensed space would require an applicant to seek approval from the NJ Alcoholic Beverage Control Board for a place-to–place transfer of the active license to expand the licensed premises.

It is an exciting time in Westfield. Property owners who wish to discuss how they may be able to take advantage of these new regulations are encouraged to contact Lindabury’s real estate, land use and zoning attorneys.

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