Woodstock City Council met June 6.
Woodstock City Council met June 6.
Here is the minutes provided by the Council:
The regular meeting of the Woodstock City Council was called to order at 7:00 PM by Deputy Mayor Michael Turner on Tuesday, June 6, 2017 in the Council Chambers at City Hall. Deputy Mayor Turner welcomed those present and explained the consent calendar process and invited public participation.
City Clerk Smiley confirmed that the agenda before the Council was a true and correct copy of the published agenda.
A roll call was taken.
Council Members Present: Maureen Larson, Jim Prindiville, Mark Saladin, Gordon Tebo, and Deputy Mayor Michael Turner.
Council Members Absent: Daniel Hart and Mayor Brian Sager
Staff Present: City Manager Roscoe Stelford, City Attorney Ruth Schlossberg, Public Works Director Jeff Van Landuyt, Economic Development Director Garrett Anderson, Building and Zoning Director Joe Napolitano, City Engineer Alan Wilson, and Grant Writer/Communications Manager Terry Willcockson.
Others Present: Old Courthouse Advisory Commission member Wendy Piersall, Library Board member Dan Lemanski, and City Clerk Cindy Smiley
A. Floor Discussion
Michael Rein, Woodstock, stated his wish to bring a few things concerning transparency forward.
First, acknowledging the requirement for the City’s elected officials and certain staff and commission members to file a Statement of Economic Interest annually, he urged the City to adopt the additional requirement to file a document disclosing any real estate holdings they may have, noting the County Board has been doing so for the past six to eight years.
Second, Mr. Rein noted the City has a number of committees, some of which are advisory and some of which are standing. He opined these bodies should be looked at further to determine which are more advisory and which are standing, with staggered term limits implemented and with the appointments to standing committees made by the whole City Council. He further opined the names and terms of all committee members should be listed on the City’s web page and that the number of members on certain committees should be reduced.
Third, Mr. Rein urged the City Council to approve live streaming of the City’s Council meetings or placing audio of the meetings on the City’s web page so that those unable to attend can view or listen to the meetings.
Fourth, Mr. Rein expressed his disappointment in the City Council’s recent rezoning of property located at E. Judd and Seminary to B-3. He noted there are many residences, many with children, located in this area and opined it should be zoned residential. He stated most of the buildings in this area will be coming down eventually and opined single-family homes and townhomes would be better in this area and increase property values.
Fifth, noting the military is very special to him, Mr. Rein wished to thank the VFW and the volunteers who organized the City’s recent Memorial Day Ceremony and Parade.
In response to Mr. Rein’s comments, Deputy Mayor Turner noted Council and Commission members are already required to recuse themselves from any item with which they have a conflict of interest. He referred item number one to the City Attorney for review.
Concerning Mr. Rein’s second request, Deputy Mayor Turner agreed that information concerning the make-up of the City’s Boards and Commissions should be made available on the City’s web page. He noted the other items concerning the City’s Boards and Commissions mentioned by Mr. Rein will be referred to Mayor Sager upon his return as this falls under his authority.
Deputy Mayor Turner expressed agreement with Mr. Rein’s comments concerning live streaming of the City Council meetings, noting it is a strategic issue that will be addressed by Mayor Sager upon his return.
Deputy Mayor Turner agreed with Mr. Rein’s comments concerning the Memorial Day Ceremony and Parade, noting this is a very special event in Woodstock. He, too, thanked those involved.
Molly Oakford, Woodstock, noted she was prompted to appear before the City Council this evening after learning Council is going to be considering the allocation of TIF funds. She stated she is a Physical Therapist in private practice in Woodstock and is very cognizant of safe mobility. She described in detail the many environmental challenges to safe mobility found on the Square, particularly those that challenge seniors, including sidewalks and barriers to safety near the Opera House, Stage Left Café, Read Between the Lynes, and Dave’s Woodstock Music. She noted these include the rise from the street to the sidewalks, the absence of railings, and the surface of the cobblestones.
Stating TIF funds are designed for infrastructure projects, Ms. Oakford requested they be allocated to correct these environmental mobility challenges rather than for the use being considered this evening.
In response, Deputy Mayor Turner asked Jeff Van Landuyt to investigate this issue and Garrett Anderson to talk with the businesses on the Square to gain their perspective on this issue.
Randy Tipps, Woodstock, noted the City of DeKalb live streams its meeting through YouTube.
Wendy Piersall, Woodstock, responded to Mr. Rein’s comments, stating the information on the composition of the City’s Boards and Commission, including members’ names and terms, is already on the City’s website.
Deputy Mayor Turner again thanked all who organized and participated in the City’s Memorial Day Ceremony and Parade, noting it is a wonderful event and a great part of Woodstock.
Motion by M. Saladin, second by M. Larson, to approve the Consent Agenda.
The following items were removed from the Consent Agenda at the request of Councilmembers or the Public:
• Item E-3 – Approval for the Benton Street Boardwalk – by Councilwoman M. Larson
There were no questions or comments on the items remaining on the Consent Agenda forthcoming from the City Council or the public.
Deputy Mayor Turner affirmed the Consent Agenda to include items B through E-2 as follows:
B. Minutes of Previous Meetings
April 13, 2017 Budget Workshop Minutes
May 16, 2017 Regular Meeting Minutes
May 16, 2017 Executive Session Minutes
C. Warrants: #3762 #3763 #3764
D. Minutes and Reports:
Woodstock Opera House Advisory Commission October 2016
Woodstock Opera House Advisory Commission November 2016
Woodstock Opera House Advisory Commission January 2017
Woodstock Opera House Advisory Commission February 2017
Human Resources Department Monthly Report April 2017
Human Resources Department Monthly Report May 2017
Woodstock Police Department Monthly Report April 2017
E. Manager's Report No. 91
1. Alcohol Exemption – Summer in the Park Bank Concert
a) Approval of a waiver of the prohibition of alcohol in the public way in the Park in the Square on Wednesday, July 12, 2017;
b) All approvals to be conditional upon the terms set forth by staff.
2. Award of Contract – Ash Walnut Stormsewer – Phase 3
Award of contract for the Walnut Drive, Ash Avenue, Tappan Street Stormsewer Improvements Phase 3 improvements to the low bidder, N-Trak Group LLC., in the amount of $315,781.10.
A roll call vote was taken on items B through E-2. Ayes: M. Larson, J. Prindiville, M. Saladin, G. Tebo, and Deputy Mayor Turner. Nays: none. Abstentions: none. Absentees: D. Hart and Mayor Sager. Motion carried
Item E-3 – Approval for the Benton Street Boardwalk:
Councilwoman Larson stated she wished to discuss this item further, as last time it appeared on the agenda it was conceptual. She noted staff has now investigated this and presented additional information. Noting she knows there are concerns, she stated she wished to discuss these and to explain the vision of what is hoped this area can be. She stated the concept is a boardwalk decking that would be even with the curb.
Councilwoman Larson stated some of her concerns have been addressed and noted her feeling this concept will work and her wish to talk through the bigger vision. She expressed her feeling that the list of pros is very long because this is an amenity everyone loves, noting it is frustrating not to have the option of outdoor dining on the Square. She stated her belief there is a demand for this from both residents and visitors and that it is important to add options and experiences.
Councilwoman Larson stated this would also lift an area of the Square in an affordable way, adding visual appeal to a challenging environment. She stated this would be a way to improve the area, which would be a benefit to the business owners and residents. Councilwoman Larson stated her feeling this is not strictly a financial decision, but is about the vision for the Square and stated her vision is to have the Downtown expand out into the blocks that encompass the Square.
Councilwoman Larson noted the benefits to the plan for the area as presented would keep the space flexible and the investment can be used in other ways and other spaces. She also noted the possibility that the lights could be kept up for the holidays adding appeal to Benton Street in the winter also.
Ms. Larson stated she is excited about the possibilities this project presents and her feeling it fits with the vision to make the Downtown the best it can be.
In response to a question from Councilman Prindiville, Mr. Van Landuyt stated the decks will be made primarily from Wolmanized lumber with some composite material also used. In response to further questioning, he stated staff and Hitchcock did look into the possibility of renting the decks, but it was determined this was not the best option.
In response to a question from Councilman Prindiville, Mr. Van Landuyt estimated it would take four Department of Public Works employees approximately two days to setup and teardown the project.
Deputy Mayor Turner noted in his travels throughout the country, he has seen areas transformed by outdoor dining that draws people to these areas. He stated the questions include - Where is the money coming from? Is this an appropriate use of the funds? and What are the logistics? He stated setting those questions aside for the moment, he sees this as a vision for the City that makes residents proud of Woodstock and catches the attention of the visitors. He opined traffic on Rt. 120 lends itself to nice imagery of this area and noted comments have generally been positive about this proposal. Deputy Mayor Turner also noted he has repeatedly heard that Benton Street needs improvements and asked if the City leaves this area as it is, will it change from what it is? He stated there are things that can be done that can by a catalyst for future improvement, noting there have already been significant façade improvements made to some of the buildings.
Deputy Mayor Turner opened the floor to public comment.
Joseph Monack, Woodstock, stated he is opposed to spending TIF funds on the Benton Street improvements, opining the role of Benton Street should be bars where people drink. Mr. Monack noted the proposed project would remove 12 parking spaces when parking is already at a premium on the Square, noting it will promote some businesses while others will lose parking. He stated this project would help four bars/restaurants, but opined it does not promote the public good, which he feels is fixing the roads. Mr. Monack stated he does not see an impact on the economy with this project, noting he does not think there will be enough return on investment for the City to recover the money spent.
Mr. Monack stated his opinion that it is inappropriate to do this project to benefit four business, one of which is owned by a Council member and suggested the money be spent instead on the Old Courthouse so it may be sold.
Mr. Monack stated this is not just a $50,000 temporary project, but only a first step, noting the City Council has been looking at long-term improvements estimated to cost $1,000,000. He urged the Council to vote no on this project.
Margo, the owner of the barbershop located in this area of Benton Street stated she is opposed to closing the parking on Benton stating this will negatively impact her business. She stated people already violate the two-hour parking restrictions, which cause difficulty for her customers, many of whom are seniors or handicapped. She also noted there are problems with the loading zone area also, with the railroad gates resting on trucks using the zone. She suggested repairing the platform area and adjusting it so it can be used for outdoor dining with tables shared by the restaurants. She stated her feeling that it is inappropriate to shut down parking for the benefit of the restaurants while hurting her business.
In response to a question from Deputy Mayor Turner, Mr. Van Landuyt stated the platform area indicated by the business owner is railroad right-of-way belonging to Union Pacific and not controlled by the City.
Wendy Piersall, 675 Oak Street, stated she has relocated her business from Crystal Lake and knows what makes an attractive business community. She stated it has already been established that Benton Street needs rejuvenation, noting this is a very small amount of money to make the entire street attractive to the community. She stated her family frequently patronizes the Square and talked about how when they go to one business, they also visit others, stating this project will not just benefit the restaurants on Benton Street, but all of the businesses on the Square. She also noted improving the Square will bring more businesses and stated Woodstock is competing with surrounding communities for these businesses with the prospective owners looking for a community that is willing to invest in the businesses. Ms. Piersall stated she is supportive of the project.
Councilwoman Larson stated the City will be investing in the platforms with the restaurants investing in the tables and chairs.
Jen Feeley, 116 1⁄2 N. Benton, expressed her agreement with Ms. Piersall, stating this project is a positive thing for the community. She expressed the following concerns: 1) Noise - stating it is already noisy in this area; 2) Light pollution – noting the lights are on all night long, she requested that the new lights be programed to go off at some point; 3) Cleanliness – noting there are already cigarette butts present, she requested there is some sort of clean-up plan put in place.
Ms. Feeley stated overall, she is excited about this proposal and feels it is a small investment to improve an area that needs attention. She opined visitors and residents would enjoy this amenity.
Margo, owner of the barbershop on Benton Street, noted that all of the restaurants on Benton Street put their garbage out on that street. Deputy Mayor Turner noted this will be part of the overall discussion of refuse on Benton Street.
Randy Tipps stated after reviewing the proposed plan and listening to Council and public comments, he would like to commend the hard work of staff and Council on this project and also noted he has some questions and concerns. Mr. Tipps stated he knows funds were set aside in this year’s budget for a Downtown Development Plan and also to review the possible closure of Benton Street to create a pedestrian area. Discussion followed of the comments and discussion of this that occurred at past Council meetings including the May 16th meeting. He commended staff for their work since the May 16th meeting to create the staff report, noting they are working with the restaurants. Mr. Tipps expressed his support of this concept, but urged Council to consult with other business owners in the area to see how they would be affected by this improvement.
Mr. Tipps expressed his concern with the timeframe with which this has moved forward from the May 16th meeting to possibly voting tonight for a July opening. He also expressed concern with the timeframe from the time letters were sent from the City inviting business owners, building owners, and tenants to last evening’s open house concerning this project and opined the letters should have been sent to a larger area, noting this project could benefit the entire Square so everyone should have been invited. Mr. Tipps expressed his concern that the proposal was not posted to the City’s website or Facebook until last Friday. He opined there is a chance many people did not know about the meeting.
Mr. Tipps also expressed concern about some of the amenities. He asked what would be done with them if this proposal does not work. He also asked if the building owners were consulted about the overhead lighting, including the cost. Mr. Tipps opined the details of the food service and service of alcohol have not been worked out and questioned what will be done with the garbage.
In response to a question from Mr. Tipps, Deputy Mayor Turner stated the initial discussion has been to attach the platforms in some way, noting he is not advocating attaching them to the bricks.
Mr. Tipps also questioned what would happen if a new business moves into the area and wishes to use a portion of the space already used by the other businesses. He also opined the City may be approving something before it is aware of all possible costs.
Mr. Tipps asked how the trial program will affect the Downtown Plan. Noting Councilwoman Larson’s past comments that this project should be postponed until the Downtown Plan is completed, he expressed agreement. He talked about all of the other projects and parcels that are being recommended to be addressed in the Downtown Plan and opined the City may be taking a project that is a good idea and rushing it so that it may affect these other development plans.
Mr. Tipps stated he feels this is a good project, but would like to see it postponed until the Downtown Plan is completed, there is more information available, and the City has communicated with the downtown tenants and business owners, even if this means postponing it until 2018.
Dan Lemanski, 1248 Muriel, opined Council is going about this in the reverse order, noting it is considering this project this evening, holding a workshop concerning the Downtown Plan on July 10th and a Visioning Session for July 18th.
Lisa Hanson, Woodstock, noted she emailed her comments to Council, but wished to share them this evening. Ms. Hanson reiterated her concerns about Benton Street Tap being included in this proposal, as it is a bar not a restaurant, and reviewed the comments made by Deputy Mayor Turner concerning this at the May 16th meeting. She expressed her wish to hold Council to its previous statements that this amenity will be available to restaurants.
Ms. Hanson stated her other issue is that of using TIF funds for this project. She noted she owns a property on the Square and pays into the TIF. She stated she does not wish her tax dollars to pay for this, opining TIF funds are to be used for infrastructure improvements. She also opined TIF funds should be used for something that benefits the community, rather than four businesses. She stated these are private businesses, which should be funding these improvements themselves.
Councilman Prindiville noted it is important to realize that everyone pays into the TIF fund.
Molly Oakford, Woodstock, expressed her concerns about logistics and asked what is Metra’s policy on this concept and to restaurants allowing the outdoor consumption of alcohol so close to the railroad tracks. In response to a question from Deputy Mayor Turner, City Attorney Ruth Schlossberg stated Metra does not regulate anything that occurs outside of its property.
In response to Ms. Oakford’s question as to what the Fire Department and Police Department think about their ability to access this area with the amenities in place, Mr. Stelford stated the Fire Department has been consulted and they have no issue with its ability to service this area as the project is proposed. He assured Ms. Oakford they will be consulted further as the project progresses.
Ms. Oakford expressed her agreement with Ms. Hanson’s comments. She questioned the use of TIF funds to fund this project when the infrastructure on the Square does not meet safe passage standards.
Carol Lemanski, Woodstock, agreed with previous comments that Council does need to step back and look into things more before making a decision on this project. She noted the City does already have outside dining at the Public House, Ethereal, and Starbucks, and opined the City Council giving TIF dollars to four businesses is asking a lot of the citizens of Woodstock. She urged the Council to get feedback from the businesses on the Square.
Bryson Calvin, owner of the Main Street PourHouse, wished to clarify that Council is not giving TIF funds to four businesses on the Square, but rather are using the funds to enhance the Benton Street area aesthetically to provide more curb appeal. He noted parking has always been the bane of the Square and always will be. He urged people to keep in mind this is not a permanent solution, but is a trial. He reminded those present that there are 1,500 parking spaces within one-half mile of the Square.
Mr. Calvin stated this is an opportunity to make Woodstock a destination and reminded those present that Woodstock is competing with Crystal Lake, Huntley, and McHenry. He opined this area needs to be enhanced and will help the entire Square.
In response to a question from Ms. Feeley, Deputy Mayor Turner stated the initial concept is to charge the businesses using the space a permitting fee, storage fees, and a per-square-foot feet. He stated it was not his intent to make this a dollar-for-dollar exchange as he views this more as infrastructure, noting the necessity of the platforms due to the cobblestones. He stated the plan is to remove the decking when not in use meaning its longevity will be about ten years making it a long- term investment. He further stated the fees are not meant to recover the entire $50,000 in year one.
In response to Mr. Tipps’ inquiry as to what happens if a new business comes in, Deputy Mayor Turner stated the City will control how the platforms are used with the ability to change the operating structure and configuration in the future. He noted this proposal is for the first-time use.
In response to Mr. Calvin’s comments, Ms. Hanson stated she does understand the proposal is to try to enhance Benton Street, but noted her feeling that his comments were disingenuous when he said this won’t benefit his business. She opined if the businesses want this, they should pay for it, and reiterated TIF funds should be used to benefit the community as a whole.
There were no further public comments.
Councilman Tebo stated he must look at “is it good for the community?” stating he sees both pros and cons with this proposal. He stated the Benton Street area is a challenge and opined if Council can do something to make this more pleasing and look better, it should be done. He stated the people he has spoken to about this seem to like the idea and feel it should be pursued.
Mr. Tebo stated, when this idea first was looked at by Council; however, it included three restaurants. He noted Benton Street Tap is a bar, not a restaurant. He opined if the City decides to pursue this proposal at this time, if the Benton Street Tap wants to take this year and put in a kitchen and begin the process of serving food, and if the City decides it wishes to continue this in 2018, then they can petition Council and be included at that time. Councilman Tebo stated if the City is going to do this, as many variables should be removed as possible. He expressed his wish to go back to three restaurants as talked about originally.
Concerning fees, Mr. Tebo stated he would like to see the fees increased because the other communities surveyed do not provide anything but the public space, and he would like to see the City recoup the costs sooner.
Mr. Tebo noted his strong feeling against permitting smoking in this outdoor dining area and favors extending the smoking ban to this area. He stated the approval should be just to eat and drink in this space, not to smoke.
Councilman Saladin opined using the TIF funds to purchase the identified items is an appropriate use of funds. He noted through the Façade Improvement Program, individual businesses are reimbursed with TIF funds. Mr. Saladin stated tourism must be considered and this project could bring people to Woodstock as a dining destination.
Mr. Saladin noted this is temporary in nature for a few months of the year, which necessitates expediting the process, noting that people normally complain that government moves too slowly. Mr. Saladin opined this project will benefit the community and the City is trying to do something that makes sense for the community as a whole. He noted when Council takes action to rezone a business, that action benefits the business and this is no different. Councilman Saladin stated there are still more things to come before the Council at a future meeting to firm up the permitting process.
Mr. Saladin opined this project presents great risk for the business owners, noting if the restrictions are not enforced the businesses’ liquor licenses could be in jeopardy. He stated free enterprise will decide if this project is successful, again presenting great risk to the businesses.
Concerning Mr. Tipps’ comments about a permanent proposal, Councilman Saladin noted there are currently no specific plans and stated one-half of the proposed cost is for burying the overhead power lines.
Mr. Saladin stated with the permitting fees and the potential re-use of the items should the project not succeed, this is a cost he is willing to accept. He agreed parking is a big concern, but realizes that parking in and around the Square has been a problem for decades. He opined the Square is thought of as an urban area with people willing to walk.
Mr. Saladin expressed his appreciation for the concerns expressed about noise, noting he once lived on the Square. Councilman Saladin stated he appreciates the voices he has heard but noted Council has to review this proposal for the benefit of the whole, and opined it will enhance the community. For these reasons, he stated he is in favor of taking this one step with more steps to come.
Councilman Tebo stated the City is attempting to attract businesses, but also must keep the residents in mind and acknowledged Ms. Oakford’s comments concerning safe passage.
Councilwoman Larson opined this project does benefit the community and stated these business owners are also members of the community. She noted they are employers and provide a service to the community, and are not islands that are not part of the community.
Ms. Larson stated her hope this will have a springboard effect on the Square. She stated she would like to talk about a handicap spot on the north end and would be in favor of ending the outdoor dining space at 9:00 PM rather than 10:00 PM. She stated she is not in favor of permitting smoking in this area and that details concerning garbage must be worked out. Ms. Larson noted she is interested in talking about raising the fees next year as this year the business owners have the cost of tables and other equipment. She stated she is also in favor of looking at this amenity for the service of food, not just alcohol.
Councilwoman Larson stated the reason this project needs decking is because of the cobblestones, which is a unique situation on the Square, so the City is looking to find a workable solution. She stated she is in favor of this project.
Councilman Prindiville stated he is not in favor of this project. He noted his biggest concern is noise which has a negative impact on the residents. He stated if the project does proceed, he would encourage shorter hours.
Mr. Prindiville stated he is opposed to the elimination of one-half of the prime parking on Benton Street, opining that some businesses live and die on prime parking. He further opined the only way something like this will be successful is if there is a captive market of pedestrians and taking away parking will prompt drivers to go elsewhere.
Mr. Prindiville opined this is an ill-advised economic development tool and use of TIF funds with a highly-depreciable asset and a subsidy to four users. Mr. Prindiville stated his belief the City should use TIF funds to do projects that bring captive pedestrians to the Downtown through jobs and residents.
Allen Stebbins, Woodstock, wished to take issue with Councilman Saladin’s comment equating the use the Façade Improvement Program’s use of TIF funds with this project. He noted while TIF funds are used for the Façade Improvement Program, this is designed to help assist the property owner with permanent improvements to increase the assessed property value to bring dollars back to the City. He opined these platforms will do nothing to improve the assessed value to the properties involved.
Deputy Mayor Turner stated setting aside the specific items that are being disagreed upon, the question to be asked is will this asset detract or enhance Woodstock for the residents or visitors’ view of Woodstock. He opined this is a good thing for the people, the businesses, the Benton Street area, and for the Downtown, and this project has great potential.
Mr. Turner stated Woodstock is not downtown Chicago, but Benton Street has the highest concentration of businesses serving food in Woodstock, opining this would be a good area in which to invest. He reminded those present that the Benton Street area has received criticism and the dollars involved represent 1/6 of 1% of the City’s budget. He expressed hope that this project could provide the catalyst for further improvements and interest in the Square.
Turning to the concerns with parking, Mr. Turner noted he heard the same discussions about the movie theater expansion, with some opining the downtown would die if the Council allowed this to happen. He stated now 60% of the people coming to the theater come from out of town. Mr. Turner stated he agrees the parking problem of the barbershop is a concern and a handicap spot should be explored, perhaps implementing one-hour parking in that area. He disagreed with the statements that parking will “fall apart” if 12 spaces are taken away for 4 months of the year.
Deputy Mayor Turner expressed agreement that the outdoor dining hours should be until 9:00 PM on weekdays and 10:00 PM on weekends. He noted that he does not believe the restaurants involved intend to have amplified music, but opined one acoustic musician would be appropriate. He stated he would like to hear the opinions of Ms. Feeley and other residents in regards to this concern.
Concerning the TIF, Mr. Turner opined if the intent is to make property more valuable, with an agreement in place, the restaurants will have more tables, which will increase the value of the buildings and the businesses. He stated the potential for an increase in the assessed values would increase. Mr. Turner noted the parallels between this proposal and the Façade Improvement Program where money is given directly to the business owner for the benefit of his or her business while also enhancing the area. Mr. Turner also noted the City spends money on neighborhood parks, which do not benefit other neighborhoods.
Speaking to Mr. Tipps’s comments about the timeframe, Mr. Turner opined it is appropriate to put this project on the fast track and not a year away. He noted there have been discussions about this in past meetings. He stated the notification letters went out before Memorial Day for the open house held last night.
Deputy Mayor Turner stated he is comfortable with this proposal because he believes in the project. He noted it is a trial, with no permanent change to Benton Street. He further noted the platforms have residual value, including the prospect of selling them should the trial not succeed. He stated he believes this will last for the long term; however, so the net investment will be approximately $5,000 per year meaning this would be an appropriate risk.
Concerning fees, Mr. Turner agreed with Councilman Tebo’s comments that higher fees should be investigated, but also expressed agreement with Councilwoman Larson that this should be done next year after there is some information about the success of the project.
Mr. Turner stated he is in agreement with those who stated outdoor dining in this area should require the service of real food. He noted he has had an opportunity to meet with the Benton Street restaurant owners, including Mr. Bezick, owner of the Benton Street Tap, which currently would not qualify for outdoor dining as the project is proposed. He noted during this meeting Mr. Bezick stated his wish to be part of this project and his intent to change his business to put in food service.
Deputy Mayor Turner stated his belief in going through the process with the restaurants owners and staff, outdoor dining in this area should be tied to the service of food, meaning real food that is not just tangential but menu items that come from the restaurants to be served outside. He stated, since Mr. Bezick has stated his commitment to add food service to his business, the question is does Council give him the opportunity to prove this and include Benton Street Tap in the project. Mr. Turner stated he is willing to consider this because of the trial nature of the proposal.
Councilman Tebo stated the trial nature of the proposal is for about three months and opined not participating this year would not adversely affect Mr. Bezick’s business. He noted this would give him time to go through the process of including food, stating this cannot be accomplished in a short time. Mr. Tebo stated if Mr. Bezick successfully completes that process and becomes a restaurant, he can petition the Council for inclusion next year, if it is determined to continue with this project. He opined this could also reduce the cost of the project, as only three platforms will be needed.
Discussion of this followed, including how this would affect the layout and the number of platforms. Deputy Mayor Turner asked if the Benton Street Tap issue is still outstanding, could staff solicit proposals for both three and four platforms so that if that business could make a case for inclusion in the project, the contractor could adjust the number of platforms. City Manager Stelford replied in the affirmative, noting it is the intent to waive the requirement for bids and instead use the design/build concept, explaining this in more detail opining it may save money. Mr. Stelford stated assuming the costs fall under the authorization extended by Council, Staff would have the authority to proceed at his discretion with the action ratified at a future City Council meeting. Mr. Stelford stated this would allow the project to move forward more quickly. Mr. Turner stated Council has done this before and would allow for options. He noted Mr. Stelford would be bound by the budget authorized by the City Council.
In response to a question from Councilwoman Larson, City Attorney Schlossberg stated this action is appropriate and permissible. She stated the Council can waive bidding with the vote not subject to a 2/3 majority.
Councilman Tebo opined this should be looked at as a trial so that the City will have a much better idea next year if it should be continued and have an opportunity to address any problems or issues.
Councilman Saladin reiterated his feeling this is a huge risk to the businesses with the potential for reward.
Deputy Mayor Turner again opened the floor for public comments.
Mr. Tipps wished to clarify that he has no problem with the use of TIF funds for this project, stating he does not feel only these business owners will benefit. He noted his concern was regarding communication and the potential costs to other business owners in the area. In response, Mr. Stelford opined the building owner on the other side of the street will support this project. He stated after talking with electrical contractors, it is uncertain whether the proposal of lights going across the street will work, so this may change to lights encircling the outdoor area. Deputy Mayor Turner continued stating lights going across the street may be problematic due to the overhead wires. He expressed his support of staff making this decision to a more workable type of lighting and recommended that Council defer the specifics of lighting. He noted lights will create ambiance and add to the concept.
Ms. Hanson expressed her appreciation of Mr. Tebo’s comments concerning a smoking ban in this area and also his input concerning the Benton Street Tap. She encouraged the Council to vote no if Benton Street Tap is included.
Ms. Hanson noted she is supportive of outdoor dining and of the improvement of Benton Street, but again expressed her disapproval of using TIF funds, which she stated should be used for infrastructure improvements. She stated the safety items outlined by Ms. Oakford are what TIF funds should be used for, stating the City should use these funds to make the sidewalks safer for the community.
Ms. Hanson opined the businesses involved are being given an unfair advantage, noting it would help many small businesses to have three parking spaces designated just for their business. She urged the City Council to vote no on this item.
Ms. Feeley again expressed her concern about amplified music, including a concern with the business owners policing themselves. She expressed her support for acoustic music.
Ms. Piersall, stated Council is always asked about jobs, opining this will create jobs. In response, Deputy Mayor Turner stated there is a potential for this project to increase sales tax and add jobs and that long-term it will connect to the Downtown Redevelopment Plan. He stated he does not see this as departing from the City’s vision, but rather could get things moving to bring people in to live and work in Woodstock.
Noting Councilman Saladin’s previous statement that the businesses will be taking a significant risk with this proposal regarding their liquor licenses, Ms. Hanson stated she lacks confidence that this will be adequately patrolled. She stated that her business has been vandalized recently by people coming from these bars, noting she wants to know that people will not be overserved and cause problems and wants assurance a policy will be in place. Deputy Mayor Turner requested that City Manager Stelford have discussions with the Chief of Police to ensure diligent patrol of this area.
Deputy Mayor Turner noted the intent is that this area will be gated off for use only by patrons of the participating businesses. He also requested a commitment from the business owners to install outside cameras.
A discussion ensued concerning a possible procedure that would allow for a potential new business to participate in this project. City Attorney Schlossberg stated, as previously noted, the action proposed this evening would allow the City Manager to solicit proposals for both three and four platforms and be authorized to execute a contract with a maximum cap of $50,000 with Council ratifying his action at a future Council meeting.
Further discussion ensued of various rules of operation, regulations, and restrictions which the Councilmembers would like to see in place, including hours of operation, fees, and restrictions for usage of the area. It was confirmed that Staff will prepare these per the discussion and place on the June 20th agenda for consideration by the Council.
Motion by M. Larson, second by M. Saladin, to approve Ordinance 17-O-52, identified as Document 1, An Ordinance of the City of Woodstock authorizing the City Manager to execute agreements in relation to the Benton Street Boardwalk Project, permitting a waiver of bidding requirements for the Benton Street Boardwalk project and to waive the City Code requirements of Chapter 1.A.5.B, authorizing the City Manager to approve and execute contracts for such work, subject to a maximum cap of $50,000 with the expectation to secure at least two quotes from qualified contractors for proposals for three platforms with the option for four platforms and to utilize the concept plan to determine final design. Associated costs approved by the City Manager would be presented to the City Council at a future meeting for ratification.
A roll call vote was taken. Ayes: M. Larson, M. Saladin, G. Tebo, and Deputy Mayor Turner.
Nays: J. Prindiville. Abstentions: none. Absentees: D. Hart and Mayor Sager. Motion carried.
Future Agenda Items:
Following a brief discussion of Council’s availability, Deputy Mayor Turner requested City Manager Stelford to confirm with Council and reschedule the Special Downtown Plan Development Workshop. Mr. Stelford described the proposed format for this workshop.
Motion by M. Larson, second by M. Saladin, to adjourn this regular meeting of the Woodstock City Council to the June 20, 2017 City Council meeting at 7:00PM in the Council Chambers at Woodstock City Hall. Ayes: M. Larson, J. Prindiville, M. Saladin, G. Tebo, and Deputy Mayor Turner. Nays: none. Abstentions: none. Absentees: D. Hart and Mayor Sager. Meeting adjourned at 10:02 pm.