El Limon received zoning relief last night to expand the restaurant space within the former Ted’s Place at 103 Fayette Street. Signage and parking relief were also approved.
Two neighbors hired an attorney to oppose the application. During the hearing, the attorney, the clients of the attorney and several nearby neighbors and an absentee property owner raised concerns about the hours, litter, parking issues, odors, outdoor seating and noise.
The big concern was the hours of operation. El Limon stays open to 2:00 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday, which Ted’s Pizza did not. Conshohocken’s Borough Code does not address hours a restaurant can operate, thus the Zoning Hearing Board could not take the planned hours of operation into consideration or place a conditions on the hours of operation in return for granting the sought relief.
The solicitor of the Zoning Hearing Board, Michael Clarke, explained that other concerns brought up by the neighbors, such as litter, double parking and noise were enforcement issues, not issues to be taken into consideration by the Zoning Hearing Board. Outdoor seating is approved or denied through a different application process not involving the Zoning Hearing Board.
The main relief sought involved expanding the restaurant into the attached house. The additional space will allow El Limon to add a few more tables. El Limon had to show that the additional square footage would not be more than 25% of the existing space that was previously used for a restaurant use.
The property involved is on the residential side of the residential/commercial border. As a commercial use within a residential district, the members of the Zoning Hearing Board had to consider whether adding a few more tables would be more detrimental to the neighborhood than what existed before. That was the core issue.
The votes for the signage and parking were 4-0. The vote for adding more restaurant space was 3-1.
If there was existing zoning code involving the hours a restaurant can operate, especially within the residential districts, there would likely have been a different outcome.
The owner of El Limon, Karin Vargas, offered a compromise that the Zoning Hearing Board was unable to consider (once they approve something, they lose jurisdiction). The offer was to receive approval and if issues arrived, she would direct customers to her other restaurant, Tierra Caliente, for late night food. Tierra Caliente is located close-by on Fayette Street.