WOBURN - With his tenure as an elected official quickly drawing to a close, City Council President Edward Tedesco brought two-of-three outdoor dining initiatives to the finish line earlier this week.

During their latest gathering in City Hall, the council voted unanimously in favor of adopting two zoning amendments that aim to permanently allow local restaurant owners to utilize the outdoor patios and other exterior seating areas that proliferated across the city during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tedesco and Councilor at-large Robert Ferullo Jr. nearly six months ago launched the effort to prevent those outdoor spaces from vanishing from the Woburn landscape by stipulating the use is allowed within any zoning district where full-service restaurants can operate.

The initial zoning proposal specifically legalizes the uses by incorporating outdoor dining into the definition of a full-service restaurant.

The City Council president, who will be stepping down from his post in January, contends that expanded chances to dine outdoors along city streetscapes and in special parklet areas has enhanced the look and feel of Woburn’s downtown area and other commercial zones.

However, without a zoning change, most of those spaces are set to become non-conforming uses, as they were only temporarily legalized under an emergency permitting process authorized by Gov. Charles Baker in the summer of 2020.

Presently, thanks to a special act of the state Legislature that extended that emergency permitting process, Massachusetts’ relaxed outdoor dining rules will lapse next spring.

The second zoning change passed by the City Council this week creates a definition of outdoor dining. Under that proposal, all such seating areas must be adjacent to the main restaurant and be “continuously supervised” by staff members, who must provide a menu to customers and serve diners all ordered food and beverages.

The legal definition also clarifies that fast-food establishments are forbidden from taking advantage of the outdoor areas.

With the City Council discussing both proposals extensively in recent months, the local officials had little to say about the pair of zoning changes prior to this week’s vote.

The only question came from Ward 1 Councilor Joanne Campbell, who inquired about a recent revision to the proposed outdoor dining definition that allows landlords to operate multiple outdoor dining “areas”.

The Planning Board, recalling that an office building on Cambridge Road has a restaurant with an outdoor patio and a separate exterior space for private functions, last month recommended the change to allow such layouts.

“So we’re not talking about expanding [the outdoor dining] use?” asked Campbell.

“No. It’s just clarifying that it would be allowed if the [dining spaces] were split apart,” the City Council president answered.

The City Council still needs to act on a third outdoor dining initiative that would expand to the entire city the zones within which rooftop dining areas are allowed. Presently, Woburn Center is the only locale within the community where restauranteurs can seat customers on a building’s rooftop.

A few years ago, Woburn became the only community outside of Boston and Cambridge to encourage the construction of special rooftop dining spaces.

According to Tedesco, who recently refiled that third outdoor dining petition, he expects the council to vote on the final zoning change next month.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.