Delaware officials want to hear more from business owners and residents before making a decision on a potential open-container district in the city's downtown.
A state law passed in 2015 allowed municipalities with more than 35,000 residents at the time of the most-recent census to create a Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area, or DORAs, where residents could carry alcohol outside. A provision of the law that took effect in April gave cities below that population threshold in 2010 – such as Delaware – the same power.
The legislation gives municipalities the flexibility to determine whether the districts would be permanent or in effect only for specific events.
Under the law, a municipality's executive officer – in Delaware's case, City Manager Tom Homan – must file an application detailing the DORA's boundaries and requirements with Delaware City Council. The board initially set 7:30 p.m. July 24 as a public hearing on the application, but city spokesman Lee Yoakum said as of July 10 no such document had been filed.
Yoakum said city officials want to hear more from business owners and residents before taking the next step toward establishing a DORA. While the application has not been submitted, Yoakum said residents still may provide comments about the idea of creating an open-container district at the July 24 council meeting, set for 7 p.m. at City Hall, 1 S. Sandusky St.
"It will be an opportunity for anybody who wants to comment on (the DORA) to do so," he said.
While Delaware has pushed a decision on a DORA further into the future, two other central Ohio communities have moved ahead with their own open-container districts. Hilliard and Worthington held their first special events under new DORA guidelines in June.
Yoakum said the process of creating a DORA is not as simple as just copying another municipality's legislation. He said each community's application is shaped by its existing laws, geography and city officials' goals.
"It's been hard to make a straight apples-to-apples comparison," he said.
Yoakum said council members have expressed "more of an interest" in creating a DORA that's in place only during special events. The district likely would center on the city's downtown.
While no application has been submitted, residents already have started to give feedback to city officials.
Resident Deborah Guebert went before council June 26 to state her opposition to the DORA. She said she thinks the creation of the district could worsen the environment in downtown Delaware.
"I think it will do more than just change the atmosphere – I think it will actually change the character (of the city)," she said.
Jeff Kirby, who plans to open a winery on East Winter Street, told council earlier in June he favors the change.
"I would love to see that for special events," he said. " ... I don't think it should be something that's (in place) all the time."