Council votes no to outdoor dining, sidewalk expansion
CENTREVILLE — The majority of people who spoke during the Centreville Town Council’s Thursday, Dec. 1, meeting regarding an ordinance that would allow outdoor dining in the Central Business District in town were in favor of the action, but concerns were also raised about potential lost parking, the location and the haste of the project.
The council voted 2-1 against the passage of Ordinance 11-2016 with Council President George “Smokey” Sigler and Councilman Jim Beauchamp voting against the legislation. The ordinance was originally introduced in August after town staff came back from the Maryland Municipal League conference. The keynote speaker talked about a better downtown block system and sidewalk expansion was discussed.
During the September town council meeting, the councilmen decided to table a vote for 90 days that would have allowed outdoor dining in the Central Business District in conjunction with a newly expanded sidewalk. If approved, the action would have expanded the sidewalk along Commerce Street to allow restaurants an opportunity to provide outdoor services.
Though Sigler and Beauchamp voted against the ordinance, both said they were interested in having outdoor dining in the future when it is planned out more. One reason Beauchamp and Sigler said they voted no was because the project was not in the town’s capital budget program.
Councilman Tim McCluskey, who introduced the ordinance, questioned the town’s commitment to business growth, saying, “We talk a good game about economic development, but when it comes down to it, we don’t actually do anything.”
Before the legislation came to a vote, more than 10 people spoke for and against the proposed ordinance. Those in favor of the sidewalk expansion and outdoor dining availability cited world travels and how many cities and towns with attractive downtowns provide outdoor dining options.
Cal Gray with Gray Developers Inc. said he recently returned from traveling and spent most nights drinking a beer outdoors at an establishment. Fred McNeil said he remembered courting his wife in outdoor cafes around the world.
Angie Price, an advocate for the ordinance, said the Centreville Economic Development Authority, of which she is a member, created a plan for the town to capture potential dollars from people passing through the town but not stopping. She said while the group came up with the economic development plan for the town it created three objectives: strengthening the town center, encouraging business retention and increasing services to the residents.
“I believe widening these sidewalks would do all three of these things,” Price said.
But for Wendy Martin, a store owner on Commerce Street, the potential lost parking for the expansion was cause for concern. She said some of her clients can’t walk long distances and need the spaces. Martin also raised concerns about the safety of narrowing the street.
“This doesn’t have anything to do with my social life or what I want to do when I go out,” Martin said. “It has to do with my livelihood. That’s how I pay my bills.”
For Mark Callahan, owner of Callahan’s Gas and Appliance on Commerce Street, more time needs to be taken to plan out the project. Citing information from the Urban Land Institute, Callahan said it lists 10 principles to keep in mind while planning a project such as this. A timeline of two years was also recommended for preparation, he said.
Liability exposure, parking and economic questions were still concerns for Callahan as the legislation wasn’t amended since it was first introduced. “Let’s take these two years that the Urban Land Institute talks about, let’s use those 10 principles, let’s implement these five phases and do this project right,” he said.
Though the ordinance was voted down and the project has been put on hold, Sigler said he wanted to see outdoor dining happen “within the next 18 months.” Beauchamp said he might vote for it later but until more thought and coordination with various other projects is completed, he could not vote in favor of its passage.
To view the ordinance in its entirety, visit the town’s website at www.townofcentreville.org.
Follow Mike Davis on Twitter: @mike_kibaytimes.
Mark Callahan, owner of Callahan’s Gas and Appliance on Commerce Street, spoke out against Ordinance 11-2016 during the Town of Centreville’s Dec. 1 meeting.