Farmington commission debates outdoor biz enclosures

Last year, Farmington Brewing Company owner Jason Schlaff wanted to enclose the downtown brewery’s patio to expand outdoor seating.

The building on Grand River has limited space, so putting up sidewalls would boost capacity during the COVID-19 pandemic. Schlaff told Farmington planning commissioners Monday that Marygrove Awnings “was put off by how hard it was to get stuff done.”

“It was frustrating, because we just wanted to stay in business,” he said.

Schlaff’s concern, and other outdoor enclosure proposals, prompted discussions about changing the city’s zoning ordinance. After Monday’s public hearing, commissioners tabled the draft and asked city attorney Beth Saarela to make some changes.

The current ordinance allows enclosures April through October, Economic and Community Development Director Kevin Christiansen said. New rules would allow them all year, as “special land uses,” with required planning commission review and a public hearing.

Downtown Development Authority (DDA) Design Committee members want enclosures limited to cold weather. Meeting minutes show they worried about losing the pedestrian-patron connection and “street life” atmosphere, as well as the potential for structure deterioration.

Commissioners shared those concerns, as well as creating a “wall” of enclosures if multiple businesses add them. Kenneth Crutcher said outdoor enclosures could also become building additions.

“Ordinance-wise, you would want to do enough to protect the businesses… but protect the city from different applications that could come in over the next few years,” commission chair Steve Majoros said,

“We certainly don’t want to be daunting to businesses,” he added, “but I think we’ve got to get this right.”

Commissioners expect to see revisions at their August meeting.


Reported by