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Lemont Village Board debates additions to La Dolce Vita outdoor seating

LEMONT – La Dolce Vita owner Mickey Martin made his case to the Lemont Village Board for permanent enhancements to his outdoor dining area during the Monday board meeting.

Martin said he would like to extend a deck under the canopy and put five dining tables outside. He also wants to add a plastic canvas that could cover the seating area so it would be available year-round.

The renovations would also require adding a door for servers to use and installing heaters for the winter months.

Martin said his restaurant has to turn customers away because of a lack of seating. He also thinks the patio seating will attract more customers who want to dine outside.

The issue for the village is that the patio seating would extend into the village-owned sidewalk by about six feet.

Lemont Village Administrator George Schafer said some businesses use village property for seating, but only on a temporary basis. The permit will last from April to November, after which the business is required to remove any fencing or furniture.

La Dolce Vita's proposed additions would be permanent, which would require a license for permanent use of village property. Schafer said the village has made such agreements with businesses before, but never for outdoor dining.

A majority of the board supported the additions, but a couple trustees did bring up concerns.

Trustee Ron Stapleton said the permanent additions to the patio seating would obstruct the view of other businesses, which he said is not fair to them.

He said he also took issue with instances when the restaurant has made renovations or additions to the building without consulting the village's building department.

"I can't vote yes on this thing," he said.

Trustee Debbie Blatzer was more concerned about the precedent of allowing a business to permanently use village property. She said if all the businesses did that, pedestrians would lose walking space on the sidewalk.

Trustee Jeanette Virgilio said she sees the patio seating as more of a temporary means of expanding the restaurant's business.

"I know [Martin] would like to make additions to the back, but he needs more revenue to do that," she said.

Mayor Brian Reaves said he wants to be supportive of owners trying to invest more in their businesses.

"Standing apart is what business people do to make money," he said. "We're fighting to become an entity and a destination. In my opinion, this [restaurant] is a destination."

The board still needs to officially approve a licensing agreement with the restaurant to use village land, but Reaves said he hopes the restaurant will be able to move forward with its construction plans soon.

In other discussion, the board gave its approval for the Chicago Blaze Rugby Club to expand its two-car door garage into a three-car door garage at 13011 Smith Road.

The club had already presented a planned unit development to the board in June, but the garage was damaged in a storm and the club wishes to rebuild.

The village planning department said the garage is nonconforming with the commercial zone it is in and requested the garage doors be built to face the fields on the property rather than Smith Road.

Club representative Walter Rebenson said he was concerned having the doors face the field would require delivery trucks to drive on the grass.

The village board said it did not have an issue with the garage doors facing Smith Road, as long as the structure was not designed or painted in a way that made it stand out.

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