By Laura Hayes, Senior Community Reporter
SHREWSBURY – Voters may soon decide whether to allow outdoor dining in more Shrewsbury zoning districts as town officials continue to consider articles for next month’s Special Town Meeting.
The Shrewsbury Planning Board held a public hearing Sept. 2 on proposed changes to four zoning bylaws that could go before Town Meeting.
The town is proposing to allow outdoor and indoor service to restaurants in the Limited Business, Commercial Business and Limited Commercial Business districts by right.
There would be a new license for outdoor dining, said Town Planner Bernard Cahill.
“During that time of COVID, we’ve seen an absolute explosion across all the Commonwealth, if not the country, with outdoor dining,” Cahill said.
Before the pandemic, outdoor dining required a special permit issued by the Zoning Board of Appeals in specific zoning districts in town.
These changes would remove some of the town boards from the approval process, as Cahill said the process would go “fist-in-glove” with the alcohol licensing amendment process.
“These are the types of burdens and barriers we’re trying to lower and take advantage of this newfound love for outdoor dining,” Cahill said.
Cahill said the town is working on finalizing and formalizing the review process, which would have applications go before himself and the planning department as well as the fire and police department and the engineering and building departments.
Selectmen could then sign off to give a business its license, Cahill said.
“The idea is that you come back in every year, and if nothing’s changed, it goes pretty fast after that,” Cahill said.
In addition to this discussion, the Planning Board reviewed other proposed articles on Sept. 2.
One of the articles would add the new Town Center District to an inclusionary housing subsection of the zoning bylaw.
Another would align Shrewsbury’s definition of wireless telecommunication towers and facilities with the Federal Communications Commission’s definition and add a definition for small wireless facilities.
Additionally, under the changes, the Planning Board will be the authority to grant special permits for wireless telecommunications towers and facilities.
Town Meeting is scheduled to take place on Monday, Oct. 18.