Tipp City Council approves DORA by vote of 4-3

TIPP CITY — On Monday, the Tipp City Council approved implementing a Designated Outdoor Refreshment Area (DORA) in its historic downtown area by a majority vote of 4-3.

Council members Frank Scenna and Logan Rogers, along with Council President Katelyn Berbach and Mayor Joe Gibson, voted in favor of the DORA resolution. Council members Mike McFarland, Mike Jackson, and Kathryn Huffman voted against the resolution.

The DORA will allow a patron of an establishment serving alcohol to take their alcoholic drink out of the building and walk around the established district. The drink would have to be in a plastic container labeled for the DORA, and the district has to be marked with signs. The district also cannot exceed 150 acres. Businesses that do not want DORA patrons to enter their business can also put signs on their doors telling those patrons they cannot enter with their DORA cups.

The topic of establishing a DORA in the downtown was discussed during a work session in June when City Manager Tim Eggleston said this was to help enhance tourism. Representatives of the Downtown Tipp City Partnership and the Tipp City Chamber of Commerce also spoke in favor of implementing a DORA.

During Monday’s meeting when a member of the public, Sylvia Adams, asked why the public was not notified, council members said notices of these proposed actions were also published once a week for two consecutive weeks in the Tippecanoe Gazette, as well as on the city’s website.

Eggleston said the city took out as much residential property from the district’s boundaries as possible, such as by taking alleyways out of the district.

A representative from the Tipp City Police Department said they “do not anticipate any issues at all,” noting other communities with DORAs were “very positive” about them.

“It’s not a free for all,” Berbach said.

Prior to public comment, McFarland voiced his opposition to this resolution, saying he had heard from residents and their feelings against the district. He said some of those residents said they would not be shopping in downtown anymore if the DORA is implemented.

“I do not feel that alcohol is the answer to everybody’s problems,” McFarland said. “I am a strong no against it.”

Scenna and Rogers spoke in favor of giving more opportunities to businesses.

“Our downtown businesses are in great need of a lifeline,” Rogers said.

During public comment, local Tipp City residents were divided on the DORA.

Aaron Simmons, whose church also owns a business in the downtown, said, “We just have a lot of concerns.” He added he opposed “for how it’s being proposed at this point.”

Andrea and James Trzeciak, who live within the DORA boundaries, each spoke in favor of the DORA.

“We do not drink. We are in favor of the DORA,” Andrea said. “We see it as an opportunity for the businesses … We are hoping this will help our downtown businesses.” Andrea added she felt those participating in the DORA will “see how beautiful our downtown is and want to keep it that way.”

“We don’t drink, but I think this is an excellent opportunity for the downtown,” James said. He added he felt they should give the DORA a try. “We can look back at it once a year and decide whether it’s good for the city or not.”

“My wife and I have two children … We are in favor of the resolution,” said Bill Wendel, who also lives in the DORA. “We think that it will be a positive thing and bring some help to our downtown businesses.”

Bryan Blake, a property owner in the DORA, also spoke in favor of the DORA. He used the example of Harrison’s being crowded, saying with the DORA, he could take his drink outside to wait for a table instead of crowding the bar or the waiting area. Blake said “that expands the opportunity for Harrison’s,” along with other restaurants with smaller interior spaces.

Liberty Graham, who lives just outside of the DORA boundaries, said she was not in favor of the DORA.

“I think we need to use caution and be wise with how we choose to market our town,” Graham said. She said she was concerned about the negative effect of the DORA and added, “I also wonder about store owners, how much they would want that in their stores.”

Lisa Santucci, who is the director of the Tipp City Public Library but said she was speaking as a citizen and a member of the Downtown Tipp City Partnership, spoke in favor of the DORA.

“The downtown district patrons and businesses signed a petition for or against (the DORA),” Santucci said. “No voices were muted on the organization. We listened to everybody’s concerns.” She added, “This is worth a try for our downtown district.”

“I hear your fears. I hear your concerns,” said Kim Bulgin of the Downtown Tipp City Partnership. Bulgin said she has spent the last six months studying and researching other DORA districts in Ohio, including speaking to other Main Street organizations.

“There are 36 DORA districts in Ohio, and if you visit any of those DORA districts, don’t even know you’re in a DORA district,” Bulgin said.

In regard to the petition Santucci mentioned, Bulgin said she collected several signatures in favor of it. There was one business that went from being neutral about it to opposing it, and some other businesses followed. She said there were still more businesses for it than against.

Bulgin said businesses within the DORAs she researched saw their sales double or even triple, adding it also encouraged businesses to say open later.

Reed Spencer, who lives in the DORA district, also spoke in favor of it.

“If there’s a problem, we’re all adults, we’ll take care of the situation,” Spencer said. “It’s worth a try.”

Robert Davis, a downtown property owner, expressed concerns about the DORA.

“I see plenty of negatives from open alcohol cups being exchanged,” Davis said.

Rusty Harden, a business owner, spoke in favor of the DORA. She said she has worked in a previous DORA district, saying, “It is not a festival-type atmosphere … There’s no one serving them outside on the street.”

Sheryl and Jim McKee, who live in the downtown area, said they were opposed to the resolution. Jim said, after other events held in the downtown that permitted outdoor drinking, “We always have a lot of trash in the yard … We’ve had some vandalism issues.”

Jim suggested restaurants should try to expand their outdoor spaces but keep them enclosed.

Lisa Richards, who is an incoming bar owner to the area, said the business is in favor of the DORA.

“I do think that the city and the businesses can do this responsibly,” Richards said.

The resolution authorizing the DORA will be sent to the Ohio Division of Liquor Control and the Investigative Unit of the Ohio Department of Public Safety.

Once the DORA district is implemented, the hours will be 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and noon to 8 p.m. on Sundays.

The council also approved the following items on Monday:

• The final resolution authorizing the city manager to execute agreements and/or contracts as required, with the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) for the StreetScape Project.

• A resolution authorizing the city manager to enter into an agreement with Charles Jergens Construction of Dayton for the demolition of the old Tipp City Power Plant at a cost of $363,577.45.

• A resolution authorizing the city manager to enter into an agreement with Outdoor Enterprise of Casstown for the extension of Kinna Drive at a cost of $858,817.05.

• A resolution authorizing the city manager to enter into an agreement with Outdoor Enterprise of Casstown for the extension of Abbott Park Way at a cost of $659,570.20.