May 23, 2017
Part of Arlington’s success has been in creating active public spaces and a vibrant pedestrian realm. We recognize the value of lively and safe community gathering spaces which bring people together and help knit the fabric of our various neighborhoods – places such as the Westover Beer Garden.
Over the years we have worked closely with the Westover neighborhood and business owner to allow live music and an expanded beer garden in their neighborhood. Despite early concerns from many neighbors, the experiment in this predominantly residential neighborhood has been welcomed by most neighbors.
We have recently heard from the owner and many patrons that they would like the opportunity to expand the outdoor seating at the Westover Beer Garden beyond the number currently permitted by law. As it turns out, the long-standing County Code places significant restrictions on outdoor seating for retail establishments – and specifically prohibits flexibility if governed through a use permit, while allowing more flexibility if sought through a site plan amendment.
The Westover Beer Garden is governed by a use permit, thus the County Board, under the current law, has no authority to allow more outdoor seats than the number of indoor seats.
Today, the County Board is directing the County Manager to undertake a process to revisit and revise the County Code as it relates to outdoor seating. Specifically, we intend to provide more equity between establishments governed by site plans – where the Board has some flexibility to determine the appropriate number of outdoor seats – and establishments that are governed by use permits – where the Board, at this time, has no such flexibility.
We have asked the Manager to work through the standard review process, using the Zoning Ordinance Review Committee of the Planning Commission, and to develop recommendations by the fall – with the goal of County Board action by October 2017.
Jay Fisette, Chair