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RW Council Amends Fast Food Ordinance; No Curbside of Fries With That

Curbside pickup issue still needs to be dealt with, mayor says

The Ridgewood Village Council on Wednesday voted unanimously to substantially change zoning laws in the business districts, that officials say has been from setting up shop in the village.

The subject of over the past year, the revised ordinance now strips the term "fast food," and notably prohibits drive-thru windows at establishments, dining or not. Further, it eliminates the distinction of "fast food" and "slow food" establishments, treating them with equal weight.

Proponents of the previous ordinance expressed fear that big, bold traditional fast food meccas like McDonalds and Burger King would dot E. Ridgewood Avenue should the ordinance change, a point Village Planner Blais Brancheau has rebuffed in the past.

Brancheau, addressing the planning board in the summer, said fast food businesses have had the opportunity to move into Ridgewod for decades, but have chosen not to because of a lack of foot traffic, parking and drive-thru options.

"Fast food" restaurants, prior to the codified changes Wednesday, could only operate conditionally in the B-2 zone (Franklin Ave.) but not on E. Ridgewood Ave and B-1 zones. According to Brancheau, who drafted the ordinance at the planning board, lines have blurred over the decades and many existing establishments contain "fast food" uses.

As a result of those restrictive ordinances – which contained language banning the sale of food primarily stored in plastic and paper cups, plates with plastic utensils – over seven small businesses had been turned away from opening.

The most notable example is Elliot Bloom, who had sought to open a yogurt shop, Red Mango, after Quiznos closed in summer of 2011. After tens of thousands of dollars spent, Bloom was denied by the zoning board.

"I think this is a very positive outcome for Ridgewood," said Bloom of the council's unanimous vote Wednesday. Restricted no longer, Bloom is in the process of reapplying and plans to open Red Mango in late winter, early spring.

"When we first opened in Montclair there were many vacancies," Bloom noted, remarking that vibrancy has since recovered around the Red Mango Church St. location.

"It just takes a little spark to ignite interest and renewal in an area. Hopefully Red Mango can be that spark and we're very delighted to be in town."

There are still some hurdles that must be cleared with the ordinance, officials said Wednesday.

Resident Boyd Loving remarked that the amended ordinance does not speak to curbside pickup orders, a point Village Attorney Matt Rogers acknowledged.

Several businesses offer the service in the village and Killion said it represents a safety hazard.

"Where it's a convenience for people, I believe it creates a safety situation because they are really parking in a no parking zone," the mayor said. Though it may not be addressed immediately, Killion said the curbside question is "high on the list" of things to tackle, whether it be at the planning board or council.

The ordinance changes go into effect 20 days after passage.

Jon Hendl December 16, 2011 at 03:03 PM
This is kind of a hard one to swallow - I've lived in or next to Ridgewood for more than 30 years and there have only ever been 3 establishments that could be called "fast food" - Friendly's, Blimpie's and Quiznos (Quiznos was where Blimpie's was located and Friendly's was next to where Ridgewood Coffee is). Ridgewood has ALWAYS fought to keep the fast food chains out of the town, thinking it would depreciate the value of the town's image. I'd love to see the reaction if a Taco Bell, McDonalds or KFC comes into the town - no way Ridgewood lets them put a stake in the ground anywhere near downtown - perhaps they'll tuck them into the corner like Dominos. Wondering if Glen Rock has a similar law, because there are certainly stores available over on the south side of Ridgewood.
James Jr. December 16, 2011 at 06:46 PM
I have never received Curb Side delivery in Ridgewood nor seen it being performed. Is it truly such a problem to be on "top" of the Mayor's list? Also, it makes me think of the lack of "No Parking" signs there are downtown. The areas with no meter parking and just a yellow painted line -- are these "No Parking" zones or "No Stopping/Standing" zones? If I am correct, if they are "no parking" areas people can legally wait in their cars in those areas. On the flip side, what is the businesses' thoughts -- is curb side a popular business strategy? From first thought sounds like another attack on the businesses trying to survive with the economy and the constraints that running a business in Ridgewood can contain.
Elizabeth Cox December 17, 2011 at 03:37 PM
curbside is a wonderful service to any restaurant. i have small children, sometimes we are out, running late on dinner. i can call ahead- and not have to drag 2 little ones into a place to pay , back to the car, strapped in etc! it's genius!!!!! i am more apt to order from an establishment that has this feature then one that doesn't.

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