New Ordinances Relax Restrictions on Outdoor Dining and Parking Minimums

New Ordinances Relax Restrictions on Outdoor Dining and Parking Minimums

The Village of Northbrook recently took steps toward giving shopping centers and restaurants more flexibility in specific areas. In proposing less-restrictive parking minimums for some shopping centers and codifying streamlined rules for outdoor dining, the Village is working to enhance a business-friendly environment.

Restaurant owners will be able to continue expanded outdoor dining options under Zoning Code amendments approved by the Board of Trustees on March 8. Based on changes that were introduced as temporary measures during the pandemic, the new amendments allow restaurants of all sizes to apply for an outdoor dining license through an administrative process, without a Board hearing. Administrative review is also now available for restaurants renewing an outdoor license with a change to the dining area’s size or number of seats. Restaurants may apply to obstruct parking spaces or other public right-of-way spaces as part of their license, and the Village Manager, consulting with police, fire and public works leadership, is authorized to close portions of streets to accommodate outdoor seating. Other new regulations give restaurant owners more deference in selection of furniture, fencing and other esthetic elements.

Meanwhile, the Plan Commission endorsed a Zoning Code revision that would reduce required minimum parking spaces for shopping centers between 40,000 and 100,000 square feet.  Affected centers include Meadow Plaza and Northbrook Shopping Plaza in downtown, Dunbrook Plaza, and White Plains Shopping Center. Village staff noted that the parking minimums set in 1988 presume an outdated retail model and make it difficult for shopping centers to attract tenants for non-retail businesses. A 2006 amendment created a simplified model for centers over 100,000 square feet; the new proposed ordinance extends that model down to 40,000 square feet. At their March 15 meeting, Plan Commissioners approved the proposed change with no negative comments. The proposal will be reviewed at an upcoming meeting of the Village Board of Trustees, who indicated their general support of the measure during a preliminary review earlier this year.