Contractor pushes for Marietta district

MARIETTA – A local contractor told Marietta’s City Council Thursday that a proposed revitalization district covering most of downtown Marietta and a portion of the Harmar area should be considered a gift.

“I really think we’ve gone astray on this issue. I see it as a gift from the state. They’re trying to help small communities like ours grow,” said Dan Harrison, owner of Harrison Construction.

He noted council members are split on approving an application to establish the revitalization district because the district would open the opportunity for up to 15 new liquor licenses that could be granted to restaurants that locate within the proposed district.

“But these people would be taking a big risk by coming into this community, buying a building and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to develop a business there,” Harrison said. “There are only two reasons to be against this — because you feel it’s not fair to the restaurant owners we already have or you don’t want to support business competition. That doesn’t sound like free market thinking to me.”

The state of Ohio has developed the revitalization district program to help boost economic development in small cities across the state.

Once a district with defined boundaries is approved by city council and the state, restaurants within the district can apply for a special DL5 liquor license if they meet certain requirements, including obtaining 75 percent of their business from the sales of food.

Charles Sommer, who owns the Second Street building where the Original Pizza Place is housed, has applied for a nearly 110-acre district that would include about 10 blocks in the downtown and Harmar areas in Marietta. The size of the district would qualify for up to 15 DL5 liquor licenses available to restaurants within the district boundaries.

City council has until Nov. 25 to approve or disapprove Sommer’s application.

Council president Walt Brothers said Thursday the revitalization district legislation had been through two readings, but was tabled to allow time for more public comment and discussion on the proposal.

“That ordinance has been tabled at this time, and will not be brought back off the table for a vote until Nov. 21,” he said.

In other business Thursday, council unanimously approved the final real estate contract to purchase 21 acres of property for permanent green space off Cisler Drive near Jackson Hill Park from Betty L. Weber (formerly Betty Boersma) and J. Michael Weber.

The property is being paid for through an Ohio Public Works Clean Ohio Conservation Grant of $126,169.

Council approved the expenditure of $65,153 for final design on the fifth phase of the River Trail project by Jobes Henderson & Associates. The fifth phase will extend the trail from the terminus at Jefferson Street across Duck Creek to Cogswell Lane near the Wal-Mart complex.

The city engineer wants the design completed by early 2014 to apply for Ohio Department of Transportation grant funding for the project.