WESTFIELD, Ind. – A plan that would bring more bars and restaurants to Westfield is sparking concern among some residents.
Earlier this month, the Westfield City Council passed an ordinance creating a Riverfront Development Area that sits within the Grand Junction Economic Development Area.
The ordinance allows the city to access additional alcohol licenses within the area, and at a cheaper price than traditional alcohol licenses. Mayor Andy Cook says those licenses will be used to grow the hospitality industry and capitalize on the 1.8 million visitors that come each year to Westfield as part of the city’s booming sports tourism industry.
The ordinance is achieved, in part, by classifying the Grassy Branch Creek as a river, which satisfies the state’s definition due to it being “a flowing body of water.”
“We need more entertaining and restaurants than a normal city of 37,000 because of the industry we’re in,” Cook said.
Many of those tourists end up finding their way into places like Carmel, Noblesville and Fishers, spending money at their restaurants, bars and hotels. Cook says he doesn’t mind sharing the income, but he wants to make sure Westfield holds onto as many of those dollars as possible.
“Yes, a big part of our income is the food and beverage tax. We want people to visit Grand Park, and we want them to eat and lodge right here in our city,” he said.
Not everybody sees it that way. Marla Ailor, who’s running for Westfield Washington Township Trustee, says she’s concerned that the city is trying too hard to compete with places like Carmel and Fishers. She added that many residents come to Westfield to avoid the massive and rapid development both cities are seeing. She also says she believes city administration is simply using legal loopholes to capitalize on tourism money.
“I believe that the city has capitalized on an idea, a loophole within Indiana state code. And they’re willing to exploit that loophole,” she said.
In the end, Ailor says she believes the city’s push for more hospitality industry venues won’t benefit the people she says it should. She adds that there are many people that also share her viewpoint and are concerned about “irresponsible development.”
“Are we capitalizing on the wrong people? I would say if the taxpayers are paying for it, then we need to hear their concerns more than the tourists that come visit,” Ailor said.