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Salem still studying DORA idea

SALEM — Council members plan to further explore the idea of establishing a DORA, a Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area, through the Committee of the Whole, which involves all seven council members.

The idea was discussed for the second time by the Rules and Ordinances Committee chaired by Councilwoman Cyndi Baronzzi Dickey, who said her preference would be to start small, perhaps with an event or weekend DORA, and see how it works. If it works out, then they have the option to expand it’s usage.

A DORA is a designated area where people can drink open containers of alcoholic beverages outside, as a means to draw people to an event or in Salem’s case, to the downtown. Dickey said previously that it could be considered as a way to increase the economic well-being of the downtown district.

This week, she said the city of Columbiana has established a DORA with a lot of success and she’s had requests from area businesses to start a DORA in Salem. For a city of Salem’s size, the law says one DORA can be established. The city would have to establish the rules, a map would need to establish the boundaries and there would need to be a master zoning plan to allow it. There would have to be at least four qualified liquor permit holders in the area designated as a DORA.

Dickey has attended a DORA event in Columbiana and said rules would have to be posted. There are wristbands that participants can purchase, along with a cup specific to the event that would list the rules and the designated area that people have to stay within. She said some places close the streets for a specific event DORA and some have the DORA on weekends in the summer months from May to October.

“All has to be governed by ordinance,” she said, noting that Columbiana keeps their’s very tight. “We would decide how we want to do it for our city to be the most beneficial for our merchants.”

From what he read, Councilman Geoff Goll said the ordinance would need guidance about the personnel needed, for sanitation and police and said they may want to have the fire, police and street departments involved to see what they think.

Sara Baer, secretary of the Downtown Salem Partnership, said the group hopes it becomes a reality for the downtown, but she said since State Street is a state route, the city may want to look into whether there are any prohibitions because of that. She said a DORA could cover the whole downtown.

Council President Tom Baker said Columbiana’s DORA encompasses state Route 164. He didn’t see anything that prohibits a DORA on a state route. City Law Director Brooke Zellers said state routes are included in the DORA in Canton, saying that’s one the city may want to study. He said it’s year-round and seven days a week. Canton was the third city in the state to establish a DORA, in June 2016.

City resident Jennifer Brown said she was for the idea. She attended a recent DORA event in Columbiana, bought a wrist band and a glass and said the street was not closed down and there was no disobedience. She said the ones going to a DORA aren’t the ones who end up headed off to jail.

Goll said the process to establish a DORA will take some time. The committee agreed to transfer the DORA discussion to Committee of the Whole and to invite representatives from businesses.

In other business, the committee again reviewed what types of businesses should be permitted in the new C-2 business zoning district, what should require a conditional use and approval by the Board of Zoning Appeals and what should be disallowed. The size of C-2 grew a little recently when the size of the downtown C-3 district was reduced, pushing some businesses who used to be in C-3 into C-2.

An issue was raised on whether a storage lot should be required to secure a conditional use. Dickey questioned whether the language should include allowing just 10 percent of the lot to be open and the rest to be under roof or enclosed by a building. She said there’s an issue right now that involves an open lot.

“If we’re telling them they have to have 90 percent covered by a roof, that’s terribly expensive,” Goll said.

He asked that the law director review the language regarding indoor shooting ranges on whether it requires a conditional use or not.

The law director will have to formulate a new ordinance with all the changes, then the ordinance will come to council for a first reading, then go to the Planning Commission for discussion.

After the meeting, Dickey said the issue she referred to was a once-vacant lot at the corner of Wilson and South Howard. Council had been asked to rezone the property from RA residential to C-2 commercial by the previous owner, who said someone was interested in buying the property for a small auto repair business, which is a permitted use for C-2. The zoning change was approved and the lost sold, but instead of a small auto repair business, she said the lot has been turned into a vehicle storage lot and neighbors are upset.

In deciding what should be permitted and what should require more review with a conditional use, she said they can’t just look at what’s in a zone now, they have to look ahead at what could happen.

mgreier@salemnews.net

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