The Westminster Mayor and Common Council convened Monday night, Nov. 26 to accept a cable television agreement and amend the city’s zoning code in a two-parcel district.
Council voted unanimously to approve a cable television franchise agreement with Ting Fiber Inc., a subsidiary of a Canadian internet service company.
Ting, which installed the Westminster Fiber Network, needed the city to provide a franchise agreement for its cable television services because content providers — like HBO or TBS — required it, said Dr. Robert Wack, the council president.
“Basically they want to make sure that the company that’s actually providing the service isn’t giving it to anybody other than the people in that community,” Wack told the Times. “This all ties back to the days of cable systems when a cable system was confined to a specific community.
“Now with the internet, anybody with an internet connection could theoretically get access to the content, which is why they still require a franchise agreement, so that it legally binds Ting [to] only providing that content in this community.”
The city, per the agreement, is to collect a quarterly franchise fee of 5 percent of Ting’s cable revenue.
The fee was established years ago for the cable providers to compensate cities for using their telephone pole infrastructure, Wack explained.
“When we did this thing with Ting we said, ‘Look, you’re renting this fiber from us, you’ve already paid us what you provide over the fiber, we don’t need to get any extra money from you,’ ” Wack said. As such the city crafted the contract to credit the exact amount of the franchise fee to the cable lease fees. “That way they’re not paying twice,” he added.
Because of the way the contract was written Westminster does not expect a revenue boost from the cable service, Wack said. However, Ting assumes more consumers will sign up for the fiber network now that cable services will be available too — potentially increasing city revenue.
Alcohol and zoning
Adopted unanimously by the lawmakers, Ordinance No. 899 changes the city zoning code to allow for taverns and nightclubs in Westminster’s Central Commercial Zone.
“In October, city representatives met with some local entrepreneurs that were interested in opening a tavern in downtown Westminster,” said Bill Mackey, Westminster director of community planning and development. “During that discussion we discovered this particular zoning district where the property was located did not allow taverns.”
The zoning district features two former government buildings — the former firehouse and post office— buildings that sit catty-corner to each other across Longwell Avenue.
Before this code adjustment it was the only commercial district in historic downtown Westminster that did not permit taverns and nightclubs, Mackey explained.
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“What is the definition of a tavern?” Councilman Gregory Pecoraro asked Mackey. “What makes a tavern different than other establishments?”
Pecoraro’s curveball prompted Mackey to pull out a copy of the hefty city code, which revealed no such definition.
Councilman Tony Chiavacci chimed in with an online dictionary definition. According to Merriam-Webster a tavern is “an establishment where alcoholic beverages are sold to be drunk on the premises.”
“It’s a place where they serve hard drinks to people who wanna get drunk fast,” added Wack, speaking in a comical accent that incited a round of laughter.
Chiavacci tried to quash any concerns of a raucous drinking venue by reminding his colleagues that the city is bound by county and state liquor license laws.
“The reality is, they really dictate the amount of food that has to be served and how many seats relative to that food and percentages and that kind of thing,” he said. “We can pass all the zoning we want allowing a bar or a tavern, but the reality is that they’re not getting a license for that. The liquor license is going to require them to serve a certain amount of food.
“You can’t just open up a bar that just serves alcohol and get a license for that.”