Council approves outside seating for businesses

Outdoor seating ordinances allow tables, benches for local storefronts

The Farmacy on Broad Street is a restaurant residents can expect to take advantage of the new ordinances. Owner Ross Scofield was present at the council meeting and voiced his support for the ordinance, which will allow local businesses like his to offer outdoor seating options.

By: Stephen Finn

The Sun

Palmyra Borough Council met Monday of last week and passed two ordinances that will allow businesses to offer outdoor seating options for their patrons. Business owners and residents came out in droves to show their support for the ordinances that have been years in the making.

The ordinances would allow businesses and restaurants in Palmyra to install benches and tables outside of their storefronts for the purpose of outdoor dining. During the correspondence portion at the beginning of the meeting, Councilwoman Mindie Weiner noted they had received 82 emails in support of the outdoor seating ordinances.

Support carried into the public portion of the meeting. Weiner began by asking for a show of hands from everyone who was there to support the ordinances, and almost every hand in the room shot up. The council heard first from the president of the Palmyra Improvement Association, John Casparro.

“I want to give my full support for it,” said Casparro. “I think it’s something that will really help out our businesses, and they’ve been looking for something for a while.”

The council also heard from business owners like Ross Scofield, owner of the Farmacy restaurant on Broad Street, and Jeny Stackhouse of Jeny’s Java Joint on Cinnaminson Avenue.

“What’s missing from this area is a bustling downtown business district. I don’t understand why we don’t have that going on right now. It’s only going to draw more revenue,” said Scofield.

Stackhouse voiced her support as well. Years ago, her business featured outdoor seating.

“I did have tables out front and it was very helpful, everybody loved it. It also let people know I was open so I would get more business from that. I never heard a complaint from anyone about the option to sit outdoors,” said Stackhouse.

The only dissent concerning the ordinances came from resident Howard Norcross, who didn’t believe it was in the public’s best interest to have people eating outside next to a busy street. “I would not want to eat food outside on Broad Street with the amount of cars that travel up and down Cinnaminson Avenue and Broad,” said Norcross.

After the public was given a chance to speak concerning the ordinances, it came time for a vote from the council. President Bernadette Russell discussed some of the history of the ordinances and how, in the opinion of the Land Use Board, the outdoor seating ordinances were inconsistent with the master plan of Palmyra.

“We weren’t here to re-invent the wheel, but we had to because the ball was dropped a number of years ago, so we had to pick it up from there and move forward” said Russell.

Given that a large part of the master plan was aimed at revitalizing Palmyra’s business district, Russell argued they were in fact in line with the goals of the plan.

“I just want people to be clear that the vote was that outdoor seating and dining ordinances were inconsistent, and that is not the case,” said Russell. “It is very much consistent with what we are trying to do and what this master plan that has been on the books since 1992 has been trying to do.”

Weiner added these ordinances will help make the town more attractive for new businesses. “Having these plans in place also makes us more valuable to businesses looking for new homes for their shops,” said Weiner.

Two ordinances relating to outdoor seating came up for a final vote. The first allowing for outdoor cafes and seating areas for the purposes of outdoor dining and the second allowing for the placement of sidewalk furniture in the town center and neighborhood commercial zones. Each ordinance passed with a “yes” from each of the council members.

The decision was met with loud cheers and applause from everyone in the audience who came out to show support for the ordinance and felt like their voices were heard. Palmyra residents can expect restaurants like Farmacy and Jeny’s Java Joint to begin offering outdoor seating options in the near future.