By Kyle Orlowicz / Reporter
Photo by Kyle OrlowiczMr. Bruno’s Restaurant in Lyndhurst is the first prospective licensee for the town’s new measure allowing businesses to use public property.
LYNDHURST (Nov. 18, 2010) — At its Tuesday, Nov. 9 meeting, the Lyndhurst Board of Commissioners passed a measure that will allow township businesses to borrow public property. By purchasing a license from the municipality, a business owner can now use public property such as sidewalks, or even streets, to build temporary structures that support business means.
The ordinance appears to be most attractive to restaurants seeking additional dining space by way of temporary enclosures. However, some in the community worry that while the measure supports business growth in Lyndhurst, it does so at the expense of public safety. In the case of the township’s first prospective licensee, Mr. Bruno’s Restaurant in Lyndhurst, there is at least one group that is worried.
Eugene Vater represents the Board of Valley Manor Condo Association at the residential complex located across the street from Mr. Bruno’s. After learning that Mr. Bruno’s intended to stretch its property beyond its current margins, Vater and his board sent a letter to Mayor Richard DiLascio and the Lyndhurst Board of Commissioners expressing their safety concerns.
According to the letter and statements from Vater, the condo association’s greatest concerns deal with their complex’s emergency exit and the location of a nearby fire hydrant. He also expressed concerns that a new dining area at Mr. Bruno’s would lower quality of life and property values at the condominiums, which produce $196,000 in tax revenues annually.
However, the public property in question and the plans of the business owner are treated with heavy scrutiny and on a case-to-case basis — no two properties are alike and therefore cannot be evaluated on the same terms. According to Lenny Livreri who owns Mr. Bruno’s, engineers and township fire inspectors were present at his restaurant as recently as last week to evaluate his plans. He also mentioned that the fire hydrant that Vater is worried about would be moved as part of the plan so that it will be accessible in the case of an emergency.
At the meeting, DiLascio said that all of the planning at Mr. Bruno’s is being done prior to the application process. He reminded Vater and other naysayers that it would always be the case that the public property in question must be evaluated for its availability. The same language is conveyed within the ordinance itself.
Livreri’s plans are for a practically insignificant 3-foot extension of his property onto Grant Avenue. For him, however, a 3-foot addition would allow for more business and a chance to beautify his dining space. He hopes that more seats at Mr. Bruno’s can lead to more business and new jobs at his restaurant in the future.
“I don’t understand why anybody would be against it,” Livreri said in an interview. “I don’t have any hard feelings. I just don’t understand it. I’m investing money in the town.”
He is correct, too. According to the ordinance, the rate for a license — the licenses will require annual renewal — will be based on property tax figures in the township. As it is drawn up, the ordinance supports local businesses and the town at the same time. The township maintains the equity of its public property and creates revenue from it, while small businesses are offered access to property that was previously off-limits.
Other business owners are pleased that Lyndhurst’s politicians are using legislation to support them. Ahmet Tekin of Sultan Gyro on Ridge Road is disappointed that he will not be able to take advantage of the new ordinance, but is happy that the town is doing something. “I don’t have any direction to expand here,” Tekin said in an interview.
He is not bitter, though. “I always felt that I have support and understanding from the town. They always try to make things easier not harder,” he added.
Dave Turano, who owns Turano’s Pizza Pasta Grill in Lyndhurst, is also in favor of the ordinance. “I think (Lyndhurst) should always support small businesses in bad times or good times,” Turano told The Leader.
Other business owners interviewed said they were enthusiastic about the impetus behind the new ordinance, but were confused or pessimistic about how they could actually take advantage of it.
Nearby municipalities have also made the move to al-fresco dining on the sidewalks. East Rutherford earlier this year allowed some establishments to take advantage of sidewalk dining, while Rutherford has a long history of allowing diners to enjoy Park Avenue during the summer.