Outside dining at Perucci’s gets nod from Millville P&Z

The Millville Planning & Zoning Commission this week recommended approving outdoor seating for Perucci’s Classic Italian Restaurant, paving the way for patrons to sit outside in front of the little brick building located alongside Atlantic Avenue.

Jim Rickards, owner of the restaurant, said he gets asked about outside seating all the time by customers and that he believes it will be a nice look for Millville. The commission approved the request for a plan showing 24 seats and said the maximum could be 30.

“We’ll have tables and chairs and umbrellas — similar to what is shown on the drawings,” explained Rickards. “It will be a bistro-type setting, like in Italy. It will be a cozy, rustic setting outside, just like it is inside.”

He said he will be applying for a liquor license, as well, to be able to serve customers outside, in conjunction with an approval from the town council.

Commissioner Jim Koozer questioned Rickards about vegetation between the restaurant and Reddick Lane, saying it was spelled out in the site plan for Perucci’s and in the Town’s design standards that there must be a distinct buffer between residential and commercial uses. He read from the notes from discussions in 2008 that said that vegetation would be filled in along the lane and on the perimeter of the property.

“You can say in this conditional use you [specifically] want an evergreen product,” noted town Code Enforcement Officer Eric Evans.

“It’s been four years — we still don’t have it,” answered Koozer.

Rickards said the vegetative buffer was the property owner’s responsibility and asked if a fence would be acceptable as a buffer.

Commissioner Mike Jeffers questioned the outdoor seating area and its proximity to Route 26. But he said his only concerns were a “wayward drunk” veering off the road and hitting someone.

“You are on a weird bend as it is,” he pointed out.

Rickards noted that in the plans for the Mainline Route 26 improvement project – a project that has been in the pipeline for years and is as-yet unfunded for the construction phase – have a sidewalk, a bike lane and also about 5 feet of grass in between the roadway and the area in front of the restaurant where seating is planned. Presently, he said, there is 30 feet from the edge of the paved area where seating will be and Route 26.

“Do we have any guidance from DelDOT about vehicular traffic and outdoor dining?” asked Jeffers.

Ultimately, the commissioners decided to recommend approving the outside dining, but Koozer and Evans said they were planning on looking at the vegetative buffer requirement so Evans could present something to the property owners and/or council about a recommendation for filling it in.

The commissioners also asked Evans to check on any DelDOT standards on outdoor seating and traffic. There will be no music outside, and the commissioners said Rickards already has the minimum parking spaces for the additional patrons. The restaurant’s operating hours will stay the same.