DORA area discussed for downtown

Salem may follow Columbiana in the establishment of a Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area (DORA) where people can drink open containers of alcoholic beverages outside within a certain area downtown.

The idea was discussed briefly during city council’s Rules and Ordinances Committee meeting Tuesday night, with Councilwoman Cyndi Baronzzi Dickey, who chairs the committee, saying it could be considered as a way to increase the economic well-being of the downtown district.

She reviewed some of the requirements outlined in the Ohio Revised Code and asked her fellow committee members, Councilmen Geoff Goll and Andrew Null, to also review the requirements in preparation for their next committee meeting at 6 p.m. Sept. 17.

The state of Ohio set up the DORA law in 2015 and several cities have set up DORAs, some with the areas active in the summer months and some active for specific events only, which is how Columbiana has handled the idea.

There would have to be at least four qualified liquor permit holders in the area designated as a DORA, rules would need established, there would have to be a master zoning plan that allows it and a map would need to establish the boundaries. Goll said the city could have the C-3 downtown zoning area as the boundary. State permits would be required also.

Dickey attended the latest DORA event in Columbiana and said it was very family-friendly.

Besides reviewing the state law, she suggested reaching out to local establishments to see if they’re interested in a DORA and also reaching out to the community.

In other business, the committee discussed at length 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.

Besides reducing the size of the downtown district, the list of what’s allowed inside and what isn’t also shrunk. The new rules pertain to new businesses coming in, with existing businesses grandfathered regarding what’s permitted and what isn’t.

Committee members went through the list of permitted uses and conditional uses and whether permitted uses pulled out of C-3 should be allowed in C-2 and whether conditional uses in C-3 should be permitted in C-2 or require a conditional use application. City Planning and Zoning Officer Chip Hank, Sara Baer of the Downtown Salem Partnership and Julie Needs, executive director of the Sustainable Opportunity Development Center also attended and gave some input.

Dickey said compiling of the list was preliminary and could change. Based on the committee’s discussions, she’ll be putting the list in writing and it will be reviewed again at the next meeting, then shared with area businesses and the community for their input.

Goll said he wants to help anybody that wants to come in and put people to work. He said they shouldn’t be a barrier and questioned whether they were overthinking it. Null commented about how some of the definitions for manufacturing in the commercial district between heavy and light could be subjective.

Council met after the committee meeting, but had no ordinances or resolutions on the agenda. The only vote taken was to take a break in August and hold no council meetings for the month. Council will reconvene in September unless something comes up requiring a meeting.

During the comments at the end of the meeting, Dickey, Goll and Councilman Steve Faber all expressed their condolences to city Auditor Betty Brothers and Fire Chief Scott Mason, who both lost their mothers recently.

Dickey and Councilman Roy Paparodis thanked everyone involved in Freed Fest, which was held last weekend to celebrate Alan Freed through a festival of music throughout the downtown. The Salem grad and famous disc jockey was credited with coining the phrase Rock’n Roll.