Bexley City Council again tables DORA proposal for further research; April 27 vote possible
Legislation that would create a new Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area (DORA) along East Main Street again has been tabled by Bexley City Council.
Council voted 7-0 on April 13 to table Ordinance 10-21 until the April 27 meeting to allow time to revise the ordinance based on public feedback, council President Lori Ann Feibel said.
Mayor Ben Kessler said council tentatively is scheduled to discuss revisions and potentially vote on the DORA at that meeting.
In considering how to implement the DORA, the city should take a conservative approach that is responsive to residents’ input, Feibel said.
“I do believe that this is going to be a success,” she said. "I think that we need to think about what looking at this conservatively looks like."
Kessler submitted the DORA application to council Feb. 25, referring to the concept as the “Bexley Patio.” He said he initially proposed the idea in May 2020 to help local restaurants enable social distancing and stay open amid the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
“It wasn't envisioned really that that would be something where … everyone would go get an alcoholic beverage and then just go walk around the streets,” he said. “It was really more to enable restaurants to go beyond their current fenced-in area for their patios that they have in order to expand beyond that patio area into additional space next to them.”
The proposed boundaries are between Alum Creek to the west and Cassingham Road to the east and bounded on the north and south by the East Main Street service alleys.
Kessler’s original application proposed that the DORA would be in effect year-round 4 p.m. to midnight Monday through Friday and 11 a.m. to midnight Saturday and Sunday.
On March 30, council held the third reading and public hearing, a meeting the city advertised in central Ohio publications. However, council also voted 7-0 at that meeting to table the ordinance until April 13 in order to provide further notice to residents by mailing letters and placing announcements in the city’s weekly Bexley Blast email newsletter.
On April 13, several residents voiced concerns that the DORA could cause traffic and parking congestion, excessive noise, present safety concerns for schoolchildren walking home from school and negatively impact the quality of life and property values for residents whose homes border East Main Street.
Council member Matt Klingler, who researched and developed the DORA concept with Kessler, said such issues have not surfaced in neighboring communities with DORAs such as Gahanna, Hilliard and Worthington.
“If there were red flags all over the place, we would have curtailed (the DORA application) to incorporate some of the issues we’ve seen in other communities, but I haven't seen any,” Klingler said. “It’s been nothing positive reviews, from what I could tell. There’s towns all over Ohio (that have DORAs), not just in Columbus, Ohio.”
Other council members offered suggestions to revise the proposed DORA to address residents’ concerns, including limiting the DORA to Thursday through Sunday and reducing the hours to 5 to 10 p.m.
City Auditor Bill Harvey said restricting the DORA to certain days of the week could cause confusion among restaurant patrons.
“Even if we decide to limit the hours, I certainly think it ought to be something that we consider to do every night of the week so that people can get the habit of doing this,” Harvey said. “That’s really the ideal, is to get people in the habit of doing this and patronize our businesses.”
The April 27 meeting will be held virtually at 6 p.m. on the city’s website, bexley.org.