TEMPERANCE -- Bedford Township's zoning ordinance now permits outdoor dining areas at restaurants.
The township board approved an amendment to the ordinance at its meeting last week. It requires such dining areas near residences have a barrier wall and be connected to the enclosed, interior dining area. It bars outdoor food and beverage service after 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and after 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
The change isn't expected to affect the eight outdoor dining areas in the township because they are already in compliance, but it is considered significant because without it, the outdoor eating patios were technically illegal.
The deficiency in the zoning ordinance came to light during the township's legal dispute last year with Sidelines Sports Eatery and Pub, a popular Lambertville bar at 8116 Secor Rd. Sidelines abuts a neighborhood whose residents complained about lights and noise from the bar's outdoor volleyball games and sound system.
In the wrangling between Sidelines and the township, which included a lawsuit filed by the township in Monroe County Circuit Court and the issuance of a court order requiring Sidelines to follow the letter of the zoning law by not holding any outdoor activities, Bedford officials realized that their zoning ordinance permitted food to be served only in an "enclosed building" and prohibited all outdoor activity except parking and unloading deliveries.
Township attorney Phil Goldsmith told board members they would have to amend the outdated zoning law or enforce it uniformly; otherwise the township could be accused of violating due process standards.
Sidelines agreed to stop disturbing the neighbors, and township officials resolved to update the zoning law to reflect the existence of outdoor eating areas.
In other business, the board approved establishment of a public road maintenance district for the Enchanted Forest subdivision. Road improvements there are estimated to cost $827,000, for which property owners will be assessed.
Residents expressed concerns the work would not be done properly under the oversight of the Monroe County Road Commission. Board members sympathized and offered to help if they could. Clerk Trudy Hershberger noted the township was only a facilitator in a situation such as this and had no other authority.
-- Carl Ryan