WOBURN - The push to permanently codify the state’s emergency outdoor dining regulations into Woburn’s ordinances continues to prove more difficult than first thought.
During the latest gathering of the City Council, the aldermen learned City Solicitor Ellen Callahan-Doucette is now recommending the adoption of yet a third zoning amendment that defines what constitutes “outdoor dining”.
Because that legislation has not yet been the subject of a public hearing, the council voted unanimously to again continue two other related petitions that were first introduced last May.
City Clerk Lindsay Higgins advised the alderman about the pending legislation due to the absence of City Council President Edward Tedesco, who is sponsoring the newest zoning change at the request of the city attorney.
“There’s another matter in orders from the city solicitor with President Tedesco to add a definition of outdoor dining. That would have to have a public hearing and go through the whole process, including [a public hearing before the Planning Board],” Higgins explained.
Late last spring, Tedesco along with Alderman at-large Robert Ferullo unveiled the first outdoor dining petition, which seeks to add outdoor patios and dining areas as permissible uses within all zoning districts that also allow full-service restaurants.
The same two elected officials would join with Ward 4 Alderman Joseph Demers to introduce the companion legislation regarding rooftop dining. Under the proposal, a special rooftop dining district established around Woburn Center would be expanded to areas across the community.
Endorsed by Woburn’s Chamber of Commerce, formerly known as the Woburn Business Association, both initiatives are being brought forward in order to permanently legitimize the dozens of outdoor eating areas that cropped up across the community during the COVID-19 crisis.
Under emergency powers exercised by Mass. Governor Charles Baker during the COVID-19 crisis, city officials were granted permission to issue emergency outdoor dining permits to restaurants that had been forbidden from serving diners indoors.
In Woburn, where the city’s Licensing Commission previously processed requests for a handful of outdoor patio areas on public property, city officials adopted the emergency regs by designating Mayor Scott Galvin as the emergency special permit granting authority.
Those emergency permits were originally slated to expire in mid-August, but thanks to special COVID-19 legislation enacted by the state Legislature extended the outdoor dining permissions until the spring of 2022.
Previous plans to act upon the original two pieces of legislation have been delayed in order to incorporate concerns expressed by the Planning Board and more recently by Woburn’s License Commission.
Yet a fourth zoning petition recently introduced by the owners of the Country Club Professional Building by the Winchester line, where a restaurant tenant is unable to use an exterior patio area due to Building Commissioner Thomas Quinn’s ruling that legislation passed in 2016 precludes such an arrangement.
To settle that confusion, local attorney Joseph Tarby, representing Woburn’s Martignetti family, has proposed a zoning change that will allow full-service restaurants located within an S1 district to operate outdoors, so long as the eatery is situated within a mixed-use building that contains at least 50,000 square feet. The patio area must also be situated adjacent to the leased restaurant premises.