April 06, 2020

Council’s bad example

I attended the city council meeting on Dec. 15, which was held to determine if the victualer’s license of the Market Cafe on Stillwater Avenue in Old Town should be revoked. I was very interested to hear what ordinance or code was violated that would warrant revocation. I listened carefully to the code enforcement officer, Charles Heinonen, attempt to explain the violations that the owners had committed. His stories about [Antonios] Dimoulas’ plumbing and electrical skills were interesting but I have yet to understand the relevance of those skills to the matter at hand.

Many questions were asked by council members yet after nearly one and one-half hours I still had no clear impression what ordinance or code was violated. This feeling seems to have been shared by much of the attendees and members of the council.

The problem [appeared to] lay with the serving of food and the amount of floor space used for the consumption of food. When the city attorney was asked if the city had the legal ability to dictate what food could be served, the answer was no. This would seem to resolve the issue of the serving of food. The issue of how much floor space was to be used apparently was agreed to be 10 percent, yet no one was able to determine how this was to be measured. It was claimed the floor space being used for the consumption of food was 40 percent. How this determination was made is anybody’s guess because it was never established at the meeting. Now the city council was going to decide the fate of the Market Cafe based on a measurement that the city does not know how to make.

The fervor of the city council to protect and enforce their ordinances is leading them to destroy a very positive community addition. What was once an eyesore, is now a well-kept business. When breaking a rule results in the lessening of the community, it’s time to change the rule.

The city council can spend its time pinning violations on hard-working family businesses or take the lead in promoting business in the community. This is done in a mood of cooperation, not by threatening to destroy a family business. The Market Cafe is an example of what can be done and the city council’s vote on [Dec. 15] is an example of how it should not be done. An enlightened approach to business promotion would have avoided the upcoming legal battle and expense for both sides. It’s a shame it had to come to this. Dana E. Hall Orono

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