Coun­cil votes no to out­door din­ing, side­walk ex­pan­sion

Record Observer - - News - By MIKE DAVIS mdavis@kibay­times.com

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.

PHOTO BY MIKE DAVIS

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.

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