Business owners looking to establish an outdoor dining area will now have less hurdles to clear to set up shop.

Shippensburg Borough Council recently unanimously approved an ordinance that amends the borough’s zoning code for outdoor dining areas. This amendment will change “outdoor dining areas” to a permitted use within the commercial and neighborhood commercial districts of the borough.

Previously, “outdoor dining areas” was listed as a conditional use, requiring a resident to fill out an application for the exception, and go through a separate conditional use hearing to be approved by council. Conditional use applications cost around $425.

“I voted to approve the ordinance change regarding outdoor dining areas to lessen restrictions for restaurants/businesses, that are trying to expand their services and be more successful in Shippensburg,” Councilman Keith Swartz wrote in an email to The News-Chronicle.

With this change in the code, the current conditional uses for commercial districts now include multi-family dwellings with more than six units, places of worship, hospitals, daycare centers, hotels, public/private schools, municipal building/facilities, motor vehicle parking lots, motor vehicle sales/services, convenience stores, emergency services stations, massage therapist businesses and tattoo parlors. The neighborhood commercial district also includes fitness and health centers, as well as craftsmen's shops under conditional use.

The amendment does list out some requirements for these outdoor dining areas, including adequate sidewalk space of 5 feet without obstruction; and all items to be removed from the sidewalk after closing. Any rear yard outdoor dining area must also include a fence.

Councilman Mitchell Burrows said the borough will continue to work to eliminate any additional inconveniences for new business owners that may cost them additional time and money.

Resident Steve Brenize expressed his support for the adoption of the ordinance during the public hearing for the ordinance.

“I believe any time that we can take a portion of our ordinance, and take it from a ‘come and ask us for permission and spend your time and money to do something that you want to do’ to something that is defined and says ‘here is what we expect, as long as you do that, we're good to go,’ I think that's a step in the right direction when it comes to our ordinances.”

The Borough Planning Commission approved the amendments to the ordinance on May 8, and the Franklin and Cumberland counties’ planning commissions also provided comments to the borough for consideration prior to approval.

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