Oxford Borough Council discusses regulations regarding commercial use of sidewalks
● By Steven Hoffman
Oxford Borough officials heard the concerns of several business owners and decided to stop enforcing the regulations regarding the commercial use of sidewalks in the C-3 District in the downtown while the ordinances are being revised.
During the July 15 meeting, council members were very much conflicted about how to address the concerns that were being raised. Several merchants in town want to set up a table and chairs outside on the sidewalk so that customers can enjoy the summer weather. Borough officials want to have more people in the downtown enjoying themselves—the outdoor activity enhances the vibrancy of the downtown.
However, borough officials have to consider the needs of residents who live in apartments in the business district, as well as pedestrians who might be affected by the commercial activity on the sidewalks.
Some businesses, such as the Wholly Grounds coffee shop, are perfect for an outdoor table and a few chairs. But the borough would not want other businesses to take their commercial activities out on the sidewalk.
The owners of two of the borough’s newer businesses, the hookah lounge and the cigar shop, appealed to Oxford Borough Council to allow them to set up a table for customers who want to smoke outside. Bill Carey and Scott Blum assured council members that if they received any complaints, they would ask their customers to move back inside.
Borough council engaged in a lengthy discussion about the regulations currently on the books, and what changes could be made to meet the needs of business owners in town. Several council members talked about the need to support business owners, particularly because of the investment that they have made in the borough.
“We need to promote the downtown and support our businesses,” said council member Ron Hershey.
While no one was disagreeing with that point, there were still concerns about how to change the ordinances. Council member Amanda Birdwell, for instance, noted that she has concerns about business owners inviting customers to smoke hookah or cigars on the street because of health concerns of second-hand smoke.
Council president Sue Lombardi said that it’s always concerning to have an ordinance on the books that isn’t being enforced, so it’s important to make the appropriate revisions if they want to allow further uses.
Ultimately, council decided to direct the staff to not enforce the existing ordinance that pertains to the C-3 District until it can be revised. Once the revised ordinances are reviewed at the county level, borough council will have the opportunity to further discuss the issue before a new ordinance is adopted.
In other business at the meeting, borough manager Brian Hoover said that the borough is seeking $1.8 million in grant funding through the state's Multimodal Transportation Fund to pay for sidewalks and curbs.
Oxford Borough Council approved a payment of $772,250.17 to CPS Construction Group for work on the parking garage project.
Borough council also authorized a purchase order totaling $62,456.46 to Brennan's Office Interiors for furniture for the new borough hall. Hoover said that this includes a long list of items that are necessary to equip the new borough hall, including desks, chairs, the walls for cubicles, and more.
Hoover said that the furniture will not be received by the borough until the new borough building is ready for it, and that council was only approving a purchase order, not authorizing a payment. That will come later.
Oxford Borough Council approved a payment of $124,925.48 to B.P. Patterson, Inc. for a water main replacement project.
Borough council also approved a motion to authorize advertising a zoning amendment regarding directional signs in town.