By Linda Dillman
The city of Canal Winchester is inching closer to opening a Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area.
A DORA allows patrons to purchase a drink in a downtown bar or restaurant and walk around city streets within the boundaries of 21.6 acres bordered by High Street. and Waterloo Street.
“I think we’ve kind of come to a conclusion as far as the application process goes,” said Mayor Mike Ebert during Canal Winchester City Council’s Sept. 19 work session. “There’s been a few changes in state law since we started this. You don’t need the number of establishments you did before. You also no longer need designated cups for a DORA.”
The proposed DORA includes the Old Town area, which has restaurants, boutique stores, financial institutions, professional services, and miscellaneous retail. There are single-family residences within the refreshment area boundaries, but the DORA was specifically designed to encompass key areas of business and retail establishments.
When residents were previously asked for suggestions in crafting the Old Town Plan, the highest priority they listed was to promote commercial growth. According to the DORA proposal, establishing a refreshment area in conjunction with special events can enhance entertainment options and help increase sales for existing restaurants and retailers.
Canal Winchester Development Director Lucas Haire said the city identified 21 locations delineating the borders of the DORA where signage would be posted.
“Many will be small signs attached to street signage,” said Haire. “We’re looking at up to five new trash cans at the boundaries as well.
Current park rules—impacting the Stradley Park area, which is within the DORA—do not allow alcoholic beverages, and is an issue that would need to be amended by council.
Window decals or stickers would identify participating businesses.
“I’ve been passionate about bringing the DORA to Canal Winchester,” said Councilwoman Jill Amos. “I think it will benefit our businesses and I’d love to see an expanded time frame. I think we’ll use it a lot.”
Amos might get her wish after council discussed changing proposed designated hours of operations from Thursday to Sunday from noon to 11 p.m. during designated special events to every week during the same time.
“If we’re going to look in that direction, we need to have a public hearing,” said Ebert.
A public hearing is scheduled for Nov. 7 at 5:30 p.m., prior to the council work session. If it is approved by council this year and pending a final review by the Ohio Department of Commerce, the DORA could roll out early in 2023.
Changes to council rules addressing council vacancies, public comment periods, and deadline to submit written comments prior to a council meeting were approved following a third reading. However, following a suggestion by Councilman Patrick Shea, the deadline to submit written comments was extended to noon the day of a council meeting.
One change drawing the bulk of the discussion was reducing the individual public comment time from five to three minutes, although council’s presiding officer has the opportunity to grant a request for more time, if the situation allows.
Canal Winchester Law Director Thad Boggs said the three-minute allotment is typical practice across the region. He added that members of the public have the ability to reach out to council members individually or collectively and make their voices heard anytime they wish. Whereas, Boggs pointed out, council members have a limited amount of time to speak to each other as a public body.
“If you can say something in five minutes, you can say it in three if you narrow your comments down to what you’re there for instead of rambling,” said Councilman Bob Clark. “I think you can get things across in three minutes.”
Councilman Chuck Milliken said there are opportunities to be more lenient with the time limit instead of being more stringent.
“The meetings where we had 20 to 30 people wanting to talk about warehouses is not an appropriate time to extend public comments,” said Milliken.