Town of Palm Beach News

Outdoor Dining Allowed at Poinciana Plaza

Outdoor Dining Allowed at Poinciana Plaza, thanks to the Town of Palm Beach Planning and Zoning commission proposing a zoning change.

It has been recommended by the zoning commissioners last Tuesday that the shopping center tenants should be allowed to request permission for outdoor seating from the Town of Palm Beach Town Council. As of now, the plaza in question is the only commercial district in town where seeking town permission to serve patrons outdoors is not allowed.

This wasn’t always the case. When the Regency-style shopping center opened in 1957, according to John Volk’s design, outdoor seating was allowed. After it got prohibited, only one restaurant gained the outdoor seating permission, by mistake, back in 2001, but it has since closed.

Before the zoning change can become law, it needs to be approved by the Town of Palm Beach Council. Current zoning rules would not be changed – businesses will not be able to request to have more seats than what is currently allowed, but they can ask for permission to place some of their seating outdoors. Each request would be considered individually, and, before accepting, the council would be able to attach conditions such as noise buffers.

“Because outdoor dining is allowed in other commercial zoning districts, the Commission felt the same opportunity should be afforded to businesses in the Plaza. Approval of outdoor dining does not allow restaurants to expand seating. Indoor capacity is simply allowed to move outdoors.  The Commission’s recommendation will be reviewed by the Town Council at its regular meeting of December 14,” states John Page, Planning, Zoning & Building Director.

The 12-acre, open-air plaza has been managed by Up Markets since 2014  under a long-term lease, and the company has invested into improving the appearance of the buildings and grounds that have been neglected for a long time. According to Patterson, the company is now working to restore the plaza’s vibrancy by attracting higher end retail and restoring Volk’s vision for this high-profile site.

Outdoor Dining Allowed at Poinciana Plaza

Up Markets made a request to increase the threshold at which plaza tenants must be deemed “town-serving” before they can operate in Palm Beach, and the request has been approved unanimously by the commission on Tuesday. Now the town-serving threshold is stepped up to 3,000 square feet from the previous 2,000 square feet in the plaza-zoning district. Implementing this change requires council-approved zoning and comprehensive plan amendments.

The town-serving law was adopted in 1980 as a means of protecting the small-business character of the town by requiring larger businesses to demonstrate that at least 50% of their customers work, live or are guests of accommodation in Palm Beach, thus limiting large-business traffic. This law was the source of many complaints from the local shopkeepers and restaurants who claimed that they required more non-resident customers to prosper.

In 2011, the council approved the town-serving threshold increase to 3,000 square feet for other districts and 4,000 square feet for Worth Avenue, but for the plaza district, located at the town’s northern entrance facing the Lake Worth Lagoon, the threshold remained 2,000 square feet.

This poses a problem when it comes to attracting tenants who want to be slightly larger than 2,000 square feet, as falling under town-serving guidelines means they need a special exception permit which takes long to obtain and the whole process is legally daunting.

The threshold change in other districts went smoothly, so Up Markets’ request is seemingly without drawbacks and should bring new tenants to the plaza district. 

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Evan S.

Evan S.

Carter is obsessed with breaking news and has written for several newspapers and blogs around the country.

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