Proposed Riverfront District Draws Ire of Columbus Restaurant Owners
Public concerns voiced at a meeting Tuesday have led the Columbus City Council to delay a vote on a proposal to create a riverfront district downtown.
Instead, the council will hold a public forum and consider a revised measure on April 21st.
In its current form, the proposal would create ten new three-way liquor licenses, which means businesses can sell wine, beer and liquor. Those would be sold for $1,000 apiece.
Currently, all of the city’s 27 three-way liquor licenses are in use. When they change hands, some have sold for as much as $150,000. Columbus Mayor Fred Armstrong says restaurant owners, many of whom have paid more than $100,000 for their licenses, were upset new licenses would cost so little.
He says the council will try to address their concerns over the next seven weeks, but it will take work.
“It’s going to be hard to do that,” Armstrong said.
Armstrong says there are currently no incentives built into the riverfront district proposal for potential businesses, only the opportunity to buy cheap liquor licenses.
He says the city envisions growth spurred on by restaurants which buy those. Armstrong says the district isn’t about liquor licenses, it’s about economic development.
“We’re not trying to sit here and say we want to build buildings because buildings are pretty. Well, there’s more to it than nice buildings. There’s activities and nice things for people to do. And that’s what we’re trying to accomplish,” he said.
Armstrong says the district is also needed to attract those who work and live at the nearby Camp Atterbury military base. He says the city can reap economic benefits from visits by service members.
“They’re growing every single day and probably will for several years. Those people need a place to come to for recreation and dinner with families. Maybe some of them will be single and they just want a place to go,” Armstrong said. “And hopefully that will help current restaurants with overflow.”
The ten new licenses which could be created under the plan will be limited to just the riverfront district and could only be bought and sold by businesses operating within its borders.
No date has been set for the public forum.
Columbus Submits Requests for Stimulus Money, But Armstrong’s Not Optimistic
Columbus city officials have begun submitting requests for funding from the federal stimulus package signed into law last month.
Columbus Mayor Fred Armstrong says certain application deadlines are as early as March 9th with many more afterward.
Armstrong says even though the city could potentially reap millions of dollars from the stimulus, so far the process has been frustrating.
“I have sent things out and spent more time on this stimulus along with my department heads then probably what we’re going to benefit. We’ve got probably about $168 million dollars worth of projects that we’re going to send in,” Armstrong said. “If we get a $1.25 then we get $1.25. Nobody really knows how this is going to work, I mean nobody.”
The city has or will submit requests many municipal projects, including street and road repairs, sewage treatment plant fixes and a tower for the Columbus Regional Airport. Armstrong also says the city needs to build up its infrastructure to avoid floods like those last June.
“Those are the things that are really needed. But as a municipality, I would never be able to afford those,” he said.
Armstrong says if the city receives money from the stimulus, he hopes the city will be able to choose local companies to use on projects.
“Who knows if that bidding process where those people will be local or not. Would we like it? Absolutely. We would love it,” he said. “But again, that shoe may not fit every city. But I’m hoping it does.”
Governor Mitch Daniels has said the state will receive $4.3 billion dollars from the stimulus.