The Gambier Village Council met Monday night to discuss updates for its zoning ordinance proposal, rising COVID-19 levels in wastewater and an update to the dining space formerly occupied by Chilitos, that may delay the opening of Peirce Express and Flats.
Mayor Leeman Kessler ’04 began the meeting by discussing three recent hydrant installations to fix continuous water leaks in the Village. The Council hopes to introduce a new leak detection service for fire hydrants and other water infrastructure, with the eventual goal of getting the percentage of unaccounted-for water below 40%. It will continue a steady replacement of water pipelines throughout the Village over the next few years.
Members of the Council expressed concern over rising levels of COVID-19 in Gambier’s wastewater, which have sharply spiked in the past month. Members believe that this rise in COVID-19 levels is likely due to Thanksgiving break and student travel, but it also may indicate a necessary change to Gambier’s COVID-19 guidelines to prevent cases from spreading. No changes to the current guidelines have been made yet.
The Council reviewed updates to the former Chilitos’ space, which is currently unoccupied but will eventually become a shared space between Peirce Express and a student-run bar, Flats. In order to utilize the space, the current fire suppression heads, which are used to suppress or extinguish a fire, must be reconfigured to fulfill safety requirements. As this reconfiguration will be processed through a state agency, current short-staffing within state offices have delayed the changes. The Council believes that the delay in opening Peirce Express and Flats may last until February 2023.
Consultant Wendy Moeller of Compass Point Planning spoke to the Council about a proposed draft of a Village zoning ordinance that introduces new legislation on residential housing units, short-term rental units and general updates to property laws. Some of this legislation is intended to address previous concerns over short-term rental units in Gambier, such as Airbnbs and other rental sites. Kessler expressed a desire for Gambier to remain a place with consistent, permanent residents, instead of a village with several short-term residents. Members of the Council had similar concerns over short-term rentals being used for large parties, which disrupt the environment and the Village overall. Moeller proposed restrictions on how many short-term rentals a resident of Gambier can own and where these short-term rentals can be located within a resident’s property in order to maintain local ownership provisions.
The Council set a public hearing in January of 2023 to overview a draft of the new zoning ordinance, and the first official reading of the proposal will take place in February. All residents are welcome to attend the hearing to express their thoughts or concerns on the proposal.
Village Council will next meet on Jan. 9.