Troy committee rejects DORA proposal

TROY — After more than an hour of discussion, Troy City Council’s Health and Safety Committee agreed to reject the Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area (DORA) as presented during a workshop and committee meeting on Monday.

Members of that committee include chairman John Terwilliger, Bill Rozell and Jeff Schilling.

Prior to the workshop and committee meeting, Troy’s Development Director Tim Davis gave a brief presentation of the DORA.

If council votes down the DORA, the city will have to start the application process over. The application cannot be amended to adjust days and times. The DORA can exist while special events serve its own alcohol with a “beer garden,” but would not allow DORA beverages inside the area. Davis also said the city was proposing a year trial to see how a DORA will impact businesses, but he said council could shorten the period to six months or less. Davis gave the example of the cross business promotion of the DORA such as a patron going to a restaurant, leaving with a glass of wine to go to a hair appointment or shopping with the beverage in hand. Davis also said Troy Main Street would acquire the cups, which must be plastic according to state code, and sell them to the DORA district businesses. Davis said other Main Street organizations provide the cups at cost rather than make a profit from the program.

Troy’s proposed hours of the DORA are 5 p.m. to midnight Wednesday through Friday and noon to midnight Saturday and Sunday. The city of Troy reduced the size of the proposed DORA from 41 acres down to 21 acres and focused on the downtown area. City officials said the DORA boundaries can be modified by future council action at any time. Applications must be renewed every five years.

A handful of residents spoke out against the DORA again at the committee level on Monday. Concerns with trash, coronavirus spread, intoxicated patrons inside businesses and damage to the city’s family-friendly downtown atmosphere were raised by those residents. One resident said the presentation lacked statistics such as cost of clean-up, businesses benefits and public safety costs. Another said he started a petition to fight the DORA if approved.

All council members were present with the exception of at-large council member Todd Severt. The following council member comments were made during the workshop session:

• John Terwilliger said he was against the DORA being allowed on Sundays because “we’ve seem to have forgotten what Sunday is about.” He also said he wasn’t a fan of the late hours as well as the increase in monitoring business owners would have to endure from the program.

• Jeff Schilling said he’d like the hours to be scaled back to 10 p.m. at the latest. He also said he’d like to see a list of DORA businesses and their days and hours they’d be open since the driving factor of a DORA is “to support other businesses.” He also said he’d like for the cups to be paper. Davis said the state requires plastic cups, but they could be recyclable. Schilling said he was concerned with cups being reused. He also said he’s concerned about the additional costs of clean-up, which the city would likely incur.

• Bill Twiss noted his previous council record of voting against any type of city-sponsored event or initiative that included alcohol. Twiss said Troy is “a family town” and while the DORA program may be“trendy,” he doesn’t believe it will carry the economic impact its promising. He also said he wants to keep the family friendly environment of Troy in tact.

• Bill Rozell asked what downtown businesses were doing on their own to attract more visitors. Davis responded that Troy Main Street helps with First Friday events, which extend hours later and other TMS activities.

• Zack Allen said the “elephant in the room” is the fear of incidents at night. He also said he didn’t see how a DORA would cause a large uptick in “bad apples” to cause issues. He said a DORA would help attract a few more people to downtown in the earlier hours who may be more likely to support downtown businesses rather than shop online or a big box store. He said he’s in favor of trying the DORA and to change or adjust it later. Allen later asked how many businesses were in favor of the DORA.

At the public hearing on Aug. 3, both Troy Main Street and Troy Area Chamber of Commerce gave their own statistics of support. Troy Main Street Executive Director Andrea Keller said 22 first-floor Troy Main Street businesses support the DORA. Troy Area Chamber of Commerce Kathi Roetter said 43 businesses are located within the DORA and she was able to contact 28 businesses with 14 in favor, 11 neutral and three against the proposal. Other feedback included concerns with the hours, parameters of the program, education of the public and “rushing” the proposal without thinking of a long-term impact. TACC does not endorse specific programs that target a limited area in Troy.

• John Schweser said the DORA “isn’t the be all, end all” of downtown Troy, but he sees it as another tool to attract visitors to downtown Troy. Schweser said he’d like the DORA hours to change to end around 10 p.m. and also have a set time frame each day of the week for consistency to eliminate confusion on when it was legal to have a DORA beverage within the district.

• Bobby Phillips said he’d like the hours to be scaled back to allow downtown residents quiet hours. He said 10 p.m. should be the latest DORA should be allowed. Phillips said he had real concerns for the application as presented.

• Lynne Snee said she like to see the hours limited to just Thursday through Saturday with the cut off time of 10 p.m. at the latest. She also said she’d like to see if a DORA would truly attract more visitors to patronize the local businesses other than the bars and restaurants who offered it.