Dare commissioners approve temporary provisions for restaurants and food trucks

Published 6:26 am Sunday, May 24, 2020

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On Monday night, Dare County Board of Commissioners unanimously passed temporary provisions for food stands, mobile food trucks and restaurants.

The temporary rules, which expire Dec. 31, 2020, were requested by the Outer Banks Restaurant Association in response to COVID-19 social distancing measures.

Under Phase 2 of North Carolina’s reopening plan, restaurants will be allowed to open at a limited capacity, which might be 50% like retail businesses opened under Phase 1.

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In unincorporated Dare County, mobile food trucks and food stands are allowed in commercial zoning districts on sites with existing commercial businesses.

Under the temporary rules, a mobile food unit can be placed on a vacant lot, under administrative approval by the Dare County Planning Department and approval from the Dare County Health Department.

Other provisions relating to food trucks include providing portable toilets, following zoning setbacks and providing 10 parking spaces as required under existing regulations, though the county’s Planning Department can decrease or waive these parking requirements. A temporary sign or sandwich board not to exceed 12 square feet may be used. Trash receptacles for customers and employees must be provided.

The temporary rules for restaurants focus on outside seating.

The rule uses outdoor use areas, in case restaurant owners identify a need other than seating.

The procedures address excess parking, setback areas and other space without structures. Wastewater areas cannot be used and are not authorized by the new rules, which require approval of the Dare County Planning Department.

To start the process, the applicant submits a site plan showing the proposed outside use areas. Outside seating is permitted on decks, porches, enclosures or other areas of the restaurant, so long as ingress/egress of the structure remains. The seating can be in required setback but no closer than 15 feet from any street right-of-way or vehicular access easement.

The restaurant’s public restrooms must be available.

If restaurant capacity is reduced by state rules, then a like reduction in the required number of parking spaces will be applied. Excess parking spaces may be used for outdoor seating or other outdoor use. Parking can’t occur in fire lanes, rights-of-way or access easements.

If the state does not reduce restaurant capacity, then a parking ratio of one space for six seats will be applied. The current ratio is one space for three seats.

The restaurant is permitted one temporary A-frame sign not to exceed 12 square feet.

“We have some leeway,” said Robert L. Outten, county manager and attorney in case issues arise that have not been considered. If the issue is really big, Outten told the commissioners they could schedule an additional meeting.

When the agenda item was introduced, commissioner Ervin Bateman, who owns and operates a restaurant, recused himself. The board approved and Bateman left the meeting room and returned after the agenda item concluded.



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