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Zoning Board approves Deep South Taco on Hertel Avenue

Mild or hot sauce could be the big question at the corner of Hertel and Starin avenues this summer now that Deep South Taco has won unanimous approval from the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals.

The restaurant still needs approval from the city Planning Board as well as Common Council before it can open, but the zoning approval Wednesday was a major hurdle since it addressed whether the outdoor portion of the restaurant – considered key to the project’s financial viability – would be allowed.

Rev. James Lewis, the zoning board chairman, said the primary reason for approval was that it is a commercial business planned for a commercial strip.

The restaurant will be near some homes, but Hertel Avenue is nonetheless a commercial strip, Lewis said.

“It’s a commercial strip; it’s been a commercial strip,” Lewis said. “If people were there 20 years ago, it was a commercial strip. It’s now a commercial strip.”

Deep South Taco, once it gets all its approvals, would take over a shuttered Quick Lube station building at 1707 Hertel.

The project needed variance from the zoning board since a majority of the seating planned for the restaurant would be outdoors; plans call for 120 seats outdoors and 86 indoors.

“We are very, very pleased the zoning board approved this,” the developer, Richard Hamilton, a chef, said after Wednesday’s vote. “This is one of many steps. If we are granted full permission, it doesn’t end there. I intend to be a solid member of the community, and will treat the community well. It’s a continuing thing,”

Hamilton is hoping, based on a new timetable following Wednesday’s approval, the restaurant also will win Planning Board and Common Council approval in coming weeks, enabling it to open by this summer, possibly as early as June.

He had hoped for an earlier opening, but the project ran into opposition from some neighborhood residents,

A majority of feedback from residents has been positive, with people looking forward to the restaurant opening, a representative of Delaware Councilman Joel P. Feroleto told the zoning board Wednesday.

But there has been some opposition, including from about half a dozen people who attended Wednesday’s meeting. The residents, some with property close to the restaurant, expressed concern over possible noise, traffic and parking issues.

“Essentially, he wants a barbecue in my backyard with 100 people,” said Dean Cerrone, who owns a house at 250 Starin, near the corner of Hertel.

Hamilton said he has adjusted his plan to address concerns expressed by residents. He has reduced outdoor seating, he said, to 120 from the 160 originally planned. He has toned down the outdoor colors of the business, and lowered the height of an outdoor screen that will, among other things, be playing football and soccer games.

Also, he said, about two-thirds of the outdoor patio will be under a roof, which the project architect said will reflect sound.

Residents also expressed concerns that the restaurant will not have adequate parking, but Hamilton said he anticipates much of the business coming from the neighborhood.