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Outdoor dining issue gets tabled

August 13, 2002|by ANDREA ROWLAND

andrear@herald-mail.com

Williamsport residents and business owners on Monday spoke in favor of allowing sidewalk dining and promoting tourism in the town.

"We should welcome visitors instead of putting up blockades," resident Frances Lynch said during the monthly meeting of the Williamsport Mayor and Town Council.

Lynch and about 15 others attended the meeting to support Blue Moon Caf owner Judy Loiseau-Myers, who wants to replace temporary caf tables and chairs on the sidewalk in front of her Conococheague Street eatery.

Town Council members did not make a decision on the issue Monday night. Councilmen Jim Kalbfleisch and Tim Ammons advocated forming a committee to study the sidewalk dining issue and others related to economic development.

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Dozens of caf customers protested when town officials in late July order Loiseau-Myers to remove three small tables with chairs from the sidewalk after getting a complaint about them, Mayor John W. Slayman has said.

Municipal law gives town officials absolute authority to prohibit objects that might obstruct the public right-of-way, Town Attorney Edward Kuczynski said.

If they allowed Blue Moon's tables, other businesses might want to put objects on the sidewalk, he said.

"For every good use there's also a bad use, so you have to be careful not to open Pandora's box," Kuczynski said.

The increased diner capacity that the sidewalk tables allow also puts Loiseau-Myers in violation of her zoning permit, he said.

The town's Board of Zoning Appeals exempted Loiseau-Myers from having to provide one off-street parking space for every three customers based upon her testimony that the caf would hold only 10 to 12 patrons, Kuczynski said.

"Your specific use is in direct violation of your specific zoning ordinance," he said.

Loiseau-Myers would have to seek another special zoning exception if the council allowed the tables, Kuczynski said.

Loiseau-Myers and several town residents and business owners agreed that town laws are needed to keep order, but that town officials must also seek ways to boost economic development.

"We can't be legalistic about everything. I think we need to accommodate the businesses a little bit," said Always Catering owner Monte Jones of Williamsport. "The majority of the citizens obviously don't have a problem with the tables and chairs."

In addition to pleasing many Williamsport residents, sidewalk dining would draw tourists into the town, increasing the opportunity for other businesses to profit, said M.S. "Ski" Czajkowski of Williamsport.

Lynch said sidewalk dining is just one way to attract tourists to Williamsport. She suggested placing a "Welcome to Williamsport" banner that lists area businesses near the C&O Canal.

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