By Andrea Cordle
Grove City Editor
Grove City citizens attended a recent meeting to question one piece of legislation approved by council and praise other efforts by city leaders.
Those in attendance addressed concerns regarding the expansion of the Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area (DORA) and offered support for the city’s recent efforts to become a more inclusive community by passing legislation to form a diversity task force and crack down on harassment and discrimination within the city.
In June, council voted to expand the DORA to include Sunday. It had operated from Monday through Saturday.
The outdoor refreshment area was adopted by city council in 2019. It includes areas in the Town Center north of Cleveland Avenue, east of Arbutus Avenue, south of Civic Place, and west behind City Hall. In 2021, council voted to expand its boundaries to the city-owned lot next to the old library site on Park Street and to the southeast corner of Civic Place and Broadway.
The DORA is essentially a waiver of Grove City’s open container law for a designated area. It allows patrons of legal age to buy an alcoholic beverage, from an established permit holder, and take that drink outside in marked areas. The drinks are poured into an identifiable plastic cup. Participants can sit outside and drink or they can browse in the designated areas.
Grove City resident Sandra Francis said she was concerned about the potential for increased impaired driving in the city.
“The reality is, people drink and drive,” said Francis.
Francis shared a story about a friend of hers who lost a loved one in a traffic accident caused by an impaired driver. She asked council members if they have ever lost a loved one to an impaired driver. She asked them to consider that when making decisions regarding the consumption of alcohol.
Local resident Chris Moore said she was not in favor of the DORA operating any day of the week. She believes there is an increase in violence with an increase in drinking.
“We want to live in a safe community,” she said.
John Sluss, a resident of Blacklick, even attended the meeting to speak out against council’s decision to expand the outdoor refreshment area, saying there was no accountability and should not be allowed.
Grove City Mayor Richard “Ike” Stage said police officers have reported very little adverse activity related to the DORA. He said city leaders are not seeing over-drinking.
“In the time we’ve had DORA, we have not had any significant increases in alcohol-related incidences,” Stage said.
Proponents of the DORA argue that it brings more people into the city’s Town Center and gives the area an economic boost.
Several residents also spoke about inclusivity efforts in Grove City.
In February, council approved a resolution to form the Grove City Community Diversity Advisory Task Force. The goal of the task force is to encourage a community dialogue regarding all aspects of diversity, including but not limited to race, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, status as a veteran or disabled veteran, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.
There are 12 members on the task force who will explore opportunities to drive community conversations related to understanding different viewpoints and experiences; evaluate city policies, procedures, and practices relative to the city’s support of commitment to diversity and inclusion; suggest educational and informational programming; and address long-term community goals.
“This task force is a step in the right direction, not just for LGBTQ, but also for people of color, people with disabilities, and so many more groups,” said Raven Tadlock who is a transgender student at Grove City High School.
Tadlock shared a personal account of bullying within the community.
“I have experienced people laughing at me or yelling at me from their vehicles. Just one Pride flag in downtown Grove City makes me feel safe,” said Tadlock.
Pam Gatewood, who is the vice president of Pride in Grove City, thanked city leaders for being proactive.
“All we want is a safe community for our kids,” she said.
James Waugh, a retired pastor, thanked council members for making the city a friendlier place and addressed comments made in previous council meetings from residents who questioned the goals of the diversity task force. Some speakers cited their faith as their reason for doubting the intent of the task force.
“Those people did not represent everyone in the faith community,” said Waugh. “From my faith, God welcomes all of God’s children, including lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer persons. There is a place for each of us at the table.”
The Grove City Diversity Task Force meets monthly. The next meeting will be held from 6 to 7 p.m. Aug. 8 in City Hall. Task force members will provide council with an update on its progress semiannually.