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Progress Needs People

Earlier this week, the OHDS board of trustees presented a potential solution to the liquor stand-off that has made the Oregon District infamous, colloquially known as the Rule of 17. The Rule of 17 revolves around an informal resolution between the city of Dayton and the OHDS that caps the number or liquor licenses allowed in the Oregon District at 17. This cap has been controversial for years and has twice been ignored by the Ohio Liquor Commission, once when the Fifth Street Wine & Deli was granted its license and again last year when Inn Port D’Vino was granted a license. That second license was then revoked on appeal but no one, including the city and the owners of Inn Port D’Vino, has any idea why it was revoked. In fact, the city went so far as to appealed the Liquor Commission’s decision expecting that Inn Port D’Vino would get their license. That decision is being appealed right now.

There are a handful of arguments presented by supporters of the Rule of 17, most notably that (1) the voting precinct lines were redrawn several years ago so that if things ever got out of hand, the neighborhood could not vote the bars on Fifth Street dry and (2) encroachment – bars are bleeding into the residential portion of the district and, while no one is arguing that they have done so already, they may disrupt quality of life. What is important to understand about these arguments is that they are mostly made by people who have lived in the District since the bad old days of the ‘70s and ‘80s when Fred and Sylvia’s and the Southern Bell where in the heart of the neighborhood and Fifth Street and Wayne Avenue were called “Filth and Wine.” As a recovering alcoholic who used to spend a lot of time down at Filth and Wine explained, most of the bars were “the kind of place you went into with a gun in both pockets.” It’s hard to imagine Coco’s, Thai 9, Boulevard Haus, Sidebar, or Blind Bob’s tolerating clientele like that – and these are the new businesses. This is the direction that the Oregon District is headed. Just this week, Press, a high-end coffee shop, opened on Wayne Avenue in a long vacant storefront. Lucky’s Taproom, an earth-friendly microbrew bar and diner, is scheduled to open in early February in the old John Henry’s location, which has been empty for two and a half years. Cities in general have changed since the bad old days of the ‘70s and ‘80s. New York is no longer burning. Oakland is chic. People are moving back into cities in droves. This isn’t news. It’s a cultural shift that has been going on for twenty years. But fear is hard to let go of. For people who have spent their lives taking a neighborhood that looked like it had survived the Dresden bombing and turned it into the crown jewel of the Gem City, it seems reasonable to want some assurance that the neighborhood won’t backslide.

The truth is that no one is ever going to give the Oregon District the opportunity to vote Fifth Street dry. And, more importantly, having that option of voting the District dry is not a magic bullet. Voting Fifth Street dry would be an economic disaster for the city and the neighborhood. McPherson Town recently voted itself dry and lost Russ’s Market in the process; despite the fact that the neighbors wanted to grandfather Russ’s Market in, voting a neighborhood dry does not allow for grandfathering – it’s all or nothing.* A dry Fifth Street is in no one’s best interest, and, honestly, no one in the Oregon District wants to vote the District dry. The people who argue that the District needs the Rule of 17 because it can’t be voted dry just want the assurance that they would have recourse if things went to hell again. There are two ways to address this concern: educate those who need assurance about the ways in which cities are changing and develop a toolbox of real means by which backsliding can be addressed. These tools do exist and we will address some of these in future posts. The second issue, encroachment has a real, tangible, legally binding solution that the OHDS, OBDA, and City Commissioners are exploring right now. During a December meeting between the OHDS board and City Commissioners Nan Whaley and Joey Williams, Commissioner Whaley proposed – wait for it – voting the residential area dry. What?! Didn’t we just tell you that voting the District dry was in no one’s best interest? Yes, voting the business district dry is in no one’s best interest. Voting the residential portion of the Oregon District dry will establish a legal line beyond which no one may have a liquor license. The plan: the city will ask the Board of Elections to draw a new voting precinct comprised of the residential portion of the Oregon District. Once that precinct is established there will be a ballot initiative to vote the geographical area of that precinct dry. That geographical area will remain dry – even if the precinct lines are redrawn – unless another ballot initiative votes it wet. The Rule of 17 would be rescinded once the process of drawing up the precinct and voting are complete. Putting this solution into action is going to require a lot of work. The first hurdle is how to word the agreement between the OHDS and the OBDA to get the ball rolling. Specifically, should the Rule of 17 be rescinded if and only if the residential neighborhood is voted dry? What if the will the majority of voters don’t want the neighborhood dry? The second, larger, hurdle is how to draw the precinct. Options are being discussed range from following the lines of the Special Improvement District (SID), which would put all of Wayne, Patterson and Fifth Street in the wet district to just having Fifth Street and the section of Sixth Street where Jay’s Seafood is located in the wet district. And of course, third is if the neighborhood does need to be voted dry for the Rule of 17 to be rescinded, there will have to be a campaign to get the neighbors to support the vote. While there is a lot of work still to be done, this is progress. There are still a lot of people shouting on all sides and not listening to each other but momentum is building to finally change this situation. There is a new generation of business owners and residents who want to work together. We’ve seen it work in grassroots support of both Ghostlight Coffee and Olive. At this moment it is possible to strike a compromise and do away with a system that serves no one well. The single biggest challenge we face right now is trusting each other. We need to let go of the past – learn from it, but let go of our grudges and fears – and look to the future and become the community that we want to be, to move Dayton forward.

*A little clarification…. McPherson Town was not interested in grandfathering Russ’s market. Russ’s market’s alcohol sales and the repercussions we suffered in our neighborhood were very much an inspiration for the movement to vote our precinct dry for carryout alcohol. We would have love them to return to a grocery store and stay in operation. They chose not to or were unable to because of the loss in sales. –Laurie Trick


No Biscuit For You!

Our last story has generated a lot of discusison about the lack of competition at the 2nd Street Market. Though our reader offers to allow us to publish her contact information, we did not feel it was necessary, you can respond to her story here. Do you think the ridged menu policy leaves out the creativity and customers service?

“Here is my story!  You can put my name to it, and if anyone feels compelled to make sure I’m not lying, they can email me.  I’ll tell anyone who wants to hear my plea for a biscuit sandwich… A few weekends ago, I went to the 2nd Street Public Market to pick up my CSA produce and have brunch, a regular Saturday morning for me. For brunch, I ordered an Annie’s Special from the Annie’s stall.  The Annie’s Special is an open-faced biscuit sandwich with egg, and cheese and topped with sausage gravy.  I originally wanted one of the breakfast sandwiches with a biscuit instead of the bread but the cashier told me that wasn’t possible.  I ordered the Annie’s Special and asked the cashier to hold the sausage gravy.  He told me I’d still have to pay full price and I told him that was fine.  After a few minutes, my name was called.  When I went back up, the chef (Annie, I presume) told me she could not fill my order as what I ordered (hold the gravy) was not an Annie’s Special.  I told her what I had originally wanted (a breakfast sandwich with a biscuit) and she said that wasn’t possible either.  With no other option, I got my money back and left.

As a past food service employee, I understand the hassles involved in substitutions and special requests by customers.  In this case, though, it did not seem unreasonable to leave off an item from a plate.  It was not even a substitution (although I offered to pay extra for a breakfast sandwich on a biscuit, if it was a matter of cost).  I wasn’t upset or angry when it happened–it was more incredulous than anything else. I just got my money back and patronized a different stall. I also know of plenty of other brunch or breakfast places in the Dayton area that also have high levels of customer service.  I’m sending this along now because it seems like this attitude toward food service is one that should not be tolerated at the 2nd Street Public Market.”


The Blind Leading the Indifferent

Many readers have inquired about what happened at the recent Oregon Historic District Society board meeting discussing the Rule of 17.  You can read an update from a board member in the comments of that post.  Below is one more example of the ridiculous disconnect the neighborhood is facing.  This email was forwarded to us from an Oregon District neighbor along with the intelligent response from one of those so-called young people. The recent complaints about kids chalk art and the knitted art installations are more of the same fear motivated short sightedness.

If you live in the District or patronize the shops and restaurants on Fifth Street you should consider how these attitudes affect the way the District will develop.  Anyone is welcome to attend the Oregon District board meetings, yet generally very few people show up. The same people continue to make decisions for the District without input. As Dayton’s only entertainment district the OD sets the tone for development in all of Downtown Dayton. The Oregon District needs more restaurants.  Restaurants need Liquor Licenses.  The majority of people purchasing homes downtown do so because they want the urban experience. They want to be near restaurants and yes… even bars. For the Downtown area to develop it seems obvious that the District needs more Liquor Licenses.  If you care about this issue (whether or not your live in the District) you should attend the board meetings and help affirm that there are a lot of people (young and old) who want to see Downtown and the Oregon District grow.

— On Wed, 8/11/10, XXXXXX XXXXX <xxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

From: XXXXXX XXXXX <xxxxxxxxxxxx> >
Subject: fundraising idea
To: “Oregon Trustees” <>
Date: Wednesday, August 11, 2010, 12:02 PM


I’ve been thinking about all that was said at last night’s meeting and I have a proposal to make.

It seems to me the young people in the neighborhood have a lot of unused energy. Therefore, I’d like to suggest they put this energy to good use. We’re in need of more street lights. One way to get these is through fundraising. A few years ago the,”old guard, old timers, or old fuddy duddies” put on an auction and cleared $10,000 to purchase lights. Now I’m sure the young people with their innovative ideas for Oregon could do better then this.

So how about it? Are the young people ready to step up to the plate and do something positive for the neighborhood, something the entire neighborhood could appreciate?


— On Wed, 8/11/10, XXXXXX XXXXX <xxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
From: XXXXXX XXXXX <xxxxxxxxxxxx> >
Subject: Re: fundraising idea
To: “Oregon Trustees” <>, “ XXXXXX XXXXX <xxxxxxxxxxxx> >
Date: Wednesday, August 11, 2010, 2:03 PM


Your suggestion to have the younger residents raise $10,000 for the neighborhood is at best misguided and at worst divisive and ageist.

First of all, the idea that “the young people in the neighborhood have a lot of unused energy” dismisses both the passion everyone, young or old, expressed last night for the betterment of the Oregon District, and completely ignores the contributions the young people continue to make to our neighborhood.  “The young people” include a trustee, several people who ran for the board in the last election, our facebook guru, the chairs of the picnic committee, several picnic hosts, people who have help with the alley sweep, people who have painted the gazebo, people who volunteer for the lighting committee, people who volunteer for the Christmas tour, people whose homes will be on the Christmas tour this year and people who are actively restoring homes, all while balancing hectic schedules, multiple jobs, school and/or children. Your suggestion that we should put our energy “to good use” and need to do “something positive for the neighborhood” suggests that our contributions thus far have not been worthwhile or even desired. I vehemently disagree.

Secondly, by having one group, the “old guard, old timers, or old fuddy duddies” as you suggest, setting a standard, raising $10,000, by which full citizen status is determined in our neighborhood is alienating and turns “young people” into second class citizens in our community.  It is dismissive and condescending; it furthers the supposed “divide” between young and old by creating a competition based on a numerical figure.

Until we all accept that we are all, regardless of age, gender, religion, race, political purview, economic class, or even home ownership, equal members of this community and begin all of our interactions with one another with the basic assumption that even our “opponents” are trying to do good, we will never get along.  I suggest that instead of dictating a standard that must be met before one’s ideas will be taken seriously, we start really listening to and considering one another’s thought, ideas and contributions to the Oregon District. I for one would like to never have another meeting in which I am told that “you young people can’t understand” to which new residents, who are actively house hunting, reply that they believe they are not welcome in the District.  I am ready and willing to work toward ensuring that it does not happen again, and I know many older residents and newer residents who are too.  We simply need to start by opening our ears and minds and working together.


Xxxxx Xxxxx

Hang on to your hats readers, we are about to blow your minds.

We have it on good authority that the same anonymous caller that complained to the city about the Knit Art installation just lodged another complaint about art in the Oregon District. Earlier today we learned that one of the city’s youngest artists is now being targeted by this sour grape in the OD.  A three year old resident of the District has been asked to cease and desist his chalk drawings because they “encourage graffiti”.

Get a grip! Can we all agree that this Oregon District resident has really lost his marbles? Chalk drawings encourage graffiti – what’s next! We are told that some of the neighbors in the OD have nicknamed that constant sour grape the “Emperor With No Clothes”.

The majority of people who are buying houses in the District are young, under 40. If you alienate your potential homeowners, fewer people will buy houses and property values will go down.  In many ways, the young people who are living in the district are exactly the kind of involved, active neighbors every neighborhood wants.  Many attend OHDS meetings (which have notoriously low turnout), serve as block captains, chair committees, volunteer, etc.  A very small group of catty neighbors are giving the whole Oregon District a reputation for being unwelcoming and trite. The residents, young and old, need to stop enabling these negative attitudes and work together to ensure the long term survival and growth of their neighborhood.

The Oregon District Rule of 17

Tonight the Oregon Historic District Society’s board of trustees will hear from Jeff Gonya regarding The Rule of 17 and its impact on the Oregon Business District and the residential district.  What is this “Rule of 17” and why is it affecting the Oregon District?  According to Leslie Rosell Gonya, “Back in 1982 there was an initiative to vote the Oregon District dry. The city, in response to this, worked with the Oregon District and came up with a happy medium. Basically, instead of supporting a dry vote, it stated that there was a moratorium on liquor licenses (the magic number was 17 at the time), and the city would object to any new liquor permit application of any restaurant or tavern in the OD without the proper amount of parking that was designated in the zoning code. This later morphed into “saturation,” (which is a term of the Ohio Liquor Board meaning “too many licenses,” with regard to affecting the peace and sobriety of the neighborhood).”  The Oregon Historic District Society has more details and a timeline of the development of the Rule of 17 on the OHDS website.

Jeff and Leslie own Inn Port D’Vino and they have been trying to add wine and after-dinner drink service to their bed and breakfast for nearly a year. Their petition for a liquor license was approved by the State Liquor Commission but they have been mired in an appeal filed by the city because of an outdated agreement meant to appease homeowners in the early 80’s.  Since the informal resolution between the OHDS and the City Commission was made, there has been no comprehensive survey of residents’ opinions nor has there been public vote either by the residents of the Oregon Historic District or the dues-paying members of the OHDS on the Rule of 17.  The policy has not been updated or reconsidered in light of the growing competition from businesses in the suburbs such as the Greene.

One of the biggest blights of the City of Dayton is vacant buildings; Fifth Street has several.  The only way to make an investment in these derelict properties viable is improve the Oregon Business District.  The reality is that the Oregon District is (and markets itself as) an arts and entertainment district.  The businesses that will purchase and restore Fifth Street’s derelict properties are likely to be businesses that tap into the District’s existing identity.  Given that galleries are not businesses with high profit margins, it seems likely that restaurants and bars are the likely candidates to open in these properties, but for a restaurant, especially a high-end classy restaurant (the type of business both the OHDS and OBDA hope to attract) must have a liquor license to be competitive and succeed.

Las Americans mentioned in a Dayton Daily news article wanting to get a liquor license as well – who doesn’t enjoy a margarita on a patio… There is also a rumor that the famed Meadowlark considered moving to the old Gem City Records space on Fifth Street but reconsidered when they heard about The Rule of 17.  A few years ago, even the much loved staple Amar India expressed interest in moving to the district, but not if it had to fight for a liquor license.

If you have any interest in the Oregon District growing in a positive way, show up. Lend Jeff and Leslie (and all the other aspiring restaurants) moral support by attending tonight’s Oregon Historic District Society’s board of trustees meeting, open to the public!

Tuesday August 10 at 7:00 p.m.

The Oregon District Board of Trustees holds regular meetings on the second Tuesday of every month. The meetings are open to the public (you do not need to be a resident of the Oregon District), and are held at the Park Manor Community Room (1st floor of the high rise near the corner of Cass St. and Jackson St.)

Knitters 1, Sour Apples 0

Yesterday evening we learned that the City is dropping their complaint against the knitted art (see email transcript below). They hope that the Oregon District can learn to play nice without involving the City.

What can we all take away from all this? The power of social media has been wielded.  In our anonymous poll,  77 voted in favor of leaving the art up vs. 2 for taking it down and requiring permits. More significantly, from what we could tell,  100% of the online comments were pro Knitters our story was posted on facebook by Dayton MostMetro, Lisa Grigsby, Kate Ervin and the Official Oregon District facebook page.  When the members of our broader community have the opportunity to voice their opinions, we have the power to triumph over those loud and insistent Sour Apples.  Social media is our new weapon against Single Sour Apple syndrome – let’s use it to benefit our city and make Dayton a better place.

From:        “Gower, John”
To:        <XXXXX>
Cc:        <XXXXX>

Date:        06/30/2010 03:46 PM
Subject:        RE: Knitted Art Installation & the OBDA


We looked at the poles last night. At this time I don’t believe that there is a public safety issue.

However, we are asking the Oregon community to resolve/reconcile whatever issue(s) there might be among themselves.  We have offered the services of the Dayton Mediation Center to achieve this. We are viewing this as an opportunity for the Oregon community to hone, enhance and improve their community building/listening/communication skills.

I would encourage you and your colleagues to connect with the others in the district that may agree or disagree and take this opportunity to help one another reach a consensus.

Thank you.

John Gower

Oregon Community Garden Update

Well folks, we have to apologize for not being very good bloggers these past few weeks. We have been following the progress of Oregon District neighbors working very hard to make the Oregon Community Garden a reality. Here is the scoop:

At a recent Oregon District function permission was given by the owner of the vacant lot at the corner of 6th and Brown to repurpose the lot as a community garden. Neighbors in the Oregon District, old and young, worked together to make the project happen. One neighbor was able to garner a donation of some 200 organic, heirloom vegetable plants from Deal’s Landscaping. The plants were mature, root bound and needed to be planted in two weeks time. Well, this band of Would Be Gardeners worked many hours to jump through all the proverbial hoops. A Certificate of Appropriateness was obtained. Beneficiaries were approached and pledged enough seed money to pay for four demonstration beds which would house the Deal’s plants. A crew was assembled to build the beds and soil and compost were sourced. Time was of the essence to make use of the plants but the Would Be Gardeners heard that some neighbors were concerned that the garden not be similar to Garden Station (which the Concerned Neighbors consider “shabby looking”). In an effort to reassure the Concerned Neighbors and demonstrate that the garden would be tidy and historically appropriate, CAD drawings were drafted showing that the garden would be laid out in a formal style similar to an English potager garden. The drawings depict a lovely raised bed garden laid out like a compass on the lot with an herb spiral in the center. The Concerned Neighbors seemed appeased, even encouraging but then, unwilling to directly communicate with the Would Be Gardeners, sent word through an intermediary that that they had changed their minds. They want to put a meadow on the lot…  yah a meadow. Well to make a long story short, one particularly vocal Concerned Neighbor, who believes that all community gardens are shabby, derailed the project, the plants died and the Would Be Gardeners became depressed. They were sad for the loss of the plants and for the loss of the many hours spent trying to transform the lot from a vacant unused space into an asset to their community. But, they were also sad because one sour neighbor was able to bring the entire project to and end. We are told these Pollyannaish Would Be Gardeners spent some time sulking and then picked up the pieces and moved on.  Currently they are working on locating another place for the Garden. Right now they are rushing against time again to try to bring the Oregon Community Garden to life on a little plot of land on Park Manor Grounds.

We will keep you posted of their progress…