Westminster Council votes to introduce zoning tweak, approve city curb ramp bid

Dr. Robert Wack, president of the City of Westminster Common Council, observes a presentation at the second monthly meeting of Mayor and Council Monday, Oct. 22.
Dr. Robert Wack, president of the City of Westminster Common Council, observes a presentation at the second monthly meeting of Mayor and Council Monday, Oct. 22. (Alex Mann / Carroll County Times)

The City of Westminster Mayor and Common Council voted unanimously Monday, Oct. 22, to introduce an ordinance that would change the city code for a zoning district that encompasses only two buildings.

City staff on Oct. 10 met with a businessman who wanted to open a tavern in downtown Westminster, according to a staff report.


The area where the man wanted to open a tavern was in Westminster’s Central Commercial Zone, which “is the only commercial zoning district in the historic downtown that does not allow taverns and nightclubs,” the report explains.

Two government buildings — the former firehouse and post office — used to occupy the small district, Bill Mackey, Westminster director of community planning and development, told council. The buildings are catty-corner to each other across Longwell Avenue.

“Staff was not aware of why that use was not included in that one zoning district,” Mackey said.

Mayor Joe Dominick told his colleagues that he attended the meeting with city staff and the local businessman.

“It was probably just some outdated thing that made sense at the time and no longer makes sense, because neither of them are government buildings anymore,” Dominick said. “That was my take on it.”

The City of Westminster Common Council convened Monday, Oct. 8 to discuss its new water allocation policy, including a master distribution chart that works similarly to a balance sheet. Council members discussed the importance of viewing water as a invaluable, finite resource like money and gold.

Taverns and nightclubs are different zoning uses than microbreweries or breweries, Mackey told council. The beer-making establishments are considered “special” zoning exception, whereas a tavern or nightclub that doesn’t make beer is not, he added.

Ordinance No. 899 would amend the city zoning code to allow for taverns and nightclubs in the tiny central commercial zone. City staff recommended that council introduce the zoning amendment and council obliged, unanimously approving its introduction. Councilwoman Mona Becker was not present for the meeting.

The zoning tweak was not the only item council addressed Monday, as the lawmakers voted unanimously to accept the low bid for Westminster’s Sidewalk Retrofit project. The sidewalk project will upgrade city curb ramps to meet Americans with Disabilities Act regulations.


“We try to work ahead of our paving,” John Dick, deputy director of Public Works, told council. “We like to fix the ramps before we fix the road, instead of tearing the road back up.”

Westminster allocated $100,000 for the curb upgrades in its fiscal year 2019 budget. City staff recommended council accept ECM Corps.’ bid of $64,060 for the project. ECM’s quote was more than $30,000 cheaper than the only other bidder, Southern Maryland Cable Inc., according to a city report.

“Do all the ramps need to be fixed?” Councilman Tony Chiavacci asked Dick.

The areas being repaved, Dick, filling in for Public Works Director Jeff Glass, explained, are 20 years old and the ADA likes to change the ramps about every six years.

“It’s a vicious cycle,” he added.