SCARBOROUGH — As many businesses struggle to stay open through the pandemic and related regulations, they will now have the option to create or modify outdoor spaces in a way that is safe and unobtrusive to neighbors.

In a unanimous vote on May 20, the Town Council approved an emergency ordinance that will go into effect immediately, allowing business owners in Scarborough to apply directly to the Planning Board for the opportunity to create an outdoor serving setup.

According to the ordinance, restaurants and other business orders may set up tents, awnings, or other temporary structures as a way to serve the public in an outdoor space, once proper licensing has been obtained.

Karen Martin, executive director of Scarborough Economic Development Corporation, said that the application is free to fill out.

Applicants will need to take an aerial screenshot of their space on Google Maps, and show the Planning Board what they expect to do on their property fronts and what the traffic patterns would look like.

“This is something that the business owner should and is expected to do on their own,” he said.

Town Manager Tom Hall told the council that there will be an administrative review process, with members from public safety, codes, planning, and SEDCO, which is playing a liaison role to businesses.

“We anticipate a lot of interest early on and we’re going to prioritize this,” he said.

Time is of the essence, he said, so the expedited process should take an applicant days to weeks to complete.

Martin said that she is happy to help owners.

“We are encouraging people to think creatively, and if there are people that we need to talk to and I can be in assistance with, I’m happy to reach out and help restaurants do that,” she said.

Town councilors also showed their support in the ordinance.

Councilor Jean-Marie Caterina said that she was very excited when she saw the information.

“I do know all the science around being inside is a little sketchy,” she said. I know people my age — I’m much more apt to go and eat somewhere outside, rather than going inside a restaurant building, so I think it’s a great plan and I like the fact that it’s an emergency ordinance and is going into effect immediately.”

“I think this is a great idea as well,” said Councilor John Cloutier. “A lot of business centers are going to struggle to make it, and this will give them a fighting chance.”

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