Plain City patio plan faces opposition


An ordinance that would allow local businesses to extend patios or dining areas into the public right-of-way continues to receive pushback from one Plain City council member.
Council Member Frank Reed voiced opposition during the first reading of the ordinance at Monday’s online council meeting.
If approved, it would create a licensing program that would require businesses to meet certain standards set by council before they can encroach on the right-of-way.
Applicants will also need to pay an application fee and annual renewal fees to be issued a license.
If a business meets the criteria, Village Administrator Nathan Cahall would have the authority to issue a license rather than going through a full review by council.
Village Solicitor Paul Lafayette noted that he is adding a provision that allows applicants to appeal the denial of a license. In that case, he said the appeal would be reviewed by council.
Reed previously opposed delegation of authority to Cahall during the June 10 work session. He said he felt every application should require a public hearing.
On Monday, Reed asked if the provision allowed Cahall to create bump-outs into the street.
Cahall said the legislation does not address that specifically. However, the village municipal code and Ohio Revised Code already allow the Village Administrator to make modifications to roadways, streets and the like.
Regardless of Cahall’s legal authority, Reed said he felt allowing businesses to create a bump-out is an “extraordinary solution” that “doesn’t exist elsewhere.”
He said he researched until he was “bug-eyed” and in a national search could not find a restaurant with a patio that blocks the sidewalk, obstructs pedestrian traffic or creates a bump-out in the street.
While Reed was speaking, Cahall shared a street-view image of a restaurant in downtown Bellefontaine that has a patio area created with a bump-out into the roadway. The public sidewalk curves around the patio, so as not to completely block pedestrians.
Cahall said he believes the restaurant was likely granted a license to infringe on the public right-of-way. Reed said he will “check into that.”
Reed also addressed an email from a resident regarding signs in front of The Grainery that allegedly violated village code.
He said the restaurant was “co-opting” a public parking spot for its own use.
Cahall said Reed was likely addressing pole signs that were temporarily placed in front of The Grainery. They encouraged social distancing and reserved a parking spot for curbside pick-up during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The village administrator said he reached out to the business owner and said he could use the spot, but the signs could not indicate it was “reserved” only for restaurant patrons. Cahall said the owner accommodated the request within a day.
Reed said he feared council was allowing developers to “come in and do their own thing” in the Uptown Plain City Historic District. He said he is worried the area is going to end up with a “hodge podge” of facades.
Mayor Darrin Lane said the village needs to advocate for the preservation of historic Plain City, while supporting local businesses that sustain it.
“In these times, I feel our village should do everything it can do to help our restaurants and businesses survive,” Lane said.
He added, “every building you see downtown is going through the proper channels right now,” referencing Design Review Board.
Council president Jody Carney echoed the mayor, ensuring Reed that his fellow council members would speak up if they saw something that was violating village code.
Reed continued to express concern, telling council “this has to do with our future and how much you care about our history.”
The meeting was adjourned after Reed said council was content to allow “a Dublin-style restaurant,” The Grainery, to come to Plain City.
In other business:
– Council approved by emergency a resolution that will renew a contract with the Madison County Prosecuting Attorney to provide prosecutorial services to the village.
Cahall said the current contract expires on July 15. The resolution renews the agreement for three years at the same rate of $15,000 annually.
– Council approved by emergency a lease agreement with The Wendt Group, a local land and equipment auctions company.
The company will lease the former police department property at 231 Friend Street at a rate of $9 per square foot. Cahall said the agreement will be “triple-net,” meaning utilities, insurance and any property taxes will be added to the rental rate.
Cahall said the lease is a six-month term with two additional 90-day options.
He said the company is looking for a temporary space during the remodeling of its office and hopes to occupy the building the first week of July.

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