SHELTON — The Planning and Zoning Commission is planning to ease regulations for those eateries looking to create or expand outdoor dining areas.

The move comes days before phase one of Gov. Ned Lamont’s state reopening plan takes effect. Restaurants, under the governor’s order, can offer outdoor dining at 50 percent capacity. Indoor dining and bars are to remain closed as the state slowly reopens from the coronavirus pandemic shutdown.

At its remote meeting Tuesday, the commission voted unanimously to allow certificate of zoning compliance applications creating or expanding temporary outdoor dining area to be approved administratively as an extension of any already approved food service establishment.

“The action taken today by the commission to permit the Planning and Zoning administrator to authorize outdoor dining ... is our ... way of supporting the efforts of local restaurants and other food service establishments to recover their business operations,” said commission Chair Virginia Harger.

Planning and Zoning staff will monitor the process in the days ahead, according to Harger, and will advise the commission if any modifications to safety guidelines need to be made.

“In a difficult time for small businesses and restaurants,” said commissioner Jimmy Tickey. “We are providing guidelines for restaurants to have temporary outdoor dining spaces so they may practice social distancing while still serving customers.”

Harger said the effect of the state’s shutdown has severely affected local business owners and their employees, creating a ripple effect nationwide.

“It is important that the city of Shelton do everything possible to assist our local businesses in their recovery in the days ahead,” she said. “The entire Planning and Zoning Commission wishes only the best for our local businesses as what impacts each of them individually impacts all of Shelton’s residents."

“Anything we can do to help our restaurants, we need to do,” added commissioner Elaine Matto.

The commission has created guidelines to govern approvals of proposed facilities, consistent with zoning practices and recommendations of state health officials and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Since outdoor dining use would be typically permitted only after it was subject to full commission approval, the resolution authorizes the P&Z administrator to process an approval through Nov. 30 only. If a business wants permanent approval for outdoor dining, it would need to submit an application to the full commission for approval.

The approved resolution also prevents any outdoor dining from being within any city or state right-of-way and cannot encroach on a designated fire lane.

Outdoor sidewalk dining areas must be confined to the portion of sidewalk abutting the leased premises of the establishment. Other outdoor dining areas must be on an area abutting the establishment and authorized by the property owner.

“Such outdoor patio/dining facility may only be authorized to restaurants and other food service establishments who currently provide indoor sit-down service. Such outdoor dining area shall be no greater than the established indoor dining area,” the resolution states.

The business must also designate at least one staff person to monitor the outdoor dining area to ensure proper trash disposal, prompt cleanup of any strewn trash and proper sanitization of tables and seats between customers. Patio dining areas larger than 100 square feet have to be well delineated andenclosed with planters, screen fencing or other perimeter control.

Serving alcoholic beverages will only be allowed subject to specific authorization of the State Liquor Control Division and with planning administrator approval, the resolution states.

Violation of the regulations may result in the revocation of the applicant’s certificate of zoning compliance, the resolution states.

brian.gioiele@hearstmediact.com