David McNair

Archive for the ‘Government’ Category

BID for the DTM? What we can learn from Vermonters

In Development, Government on October 5, 2013 at 10:56 am
800px-Church_Street_Burlington_5

The Church Street Marketplace in Burlington, Vermont, a pedestrian mall similar to the DTM, may have some ideas we should borrow. Photo by AlexiusHoratius

Our DTM is a wonderful place, one of a few such successful pedestrian malls in the country, but on a recent trip to Burlington, Vermont’s Church Street Marketplace, a pedestrian mall similar to the DTM, one downtown business owner came away wondering if we might be able to learn a thing or two from our neighbors to the North.

“There seems to be the conventional wisdom that our mall is the best,” says Mark Brown, owner of the Main Street Arena, “but a walk down Church Street screamed that while our mall has a lot of good things it could certainly be more than it is.”

Burlington’s mall, says Brown, had a mix of local and national businesses that made their mall more of a destination for all types of dining and shopping.

“They’ve done this while maintaining a very relaxed and eclectic vibe, it was impressive,” says Brown. ” Church Street is something more people should be aware of.”

City Councilor Dave Norris, whose mother is a Vermonter, has visited several times. While he doesn’t think Church Street has much of a lead on the DTM when it comes to its architecture and layout, he says they do a much better job of marketing themselves, organizing activities along the mall, and promoting businesses there.

“I chalk much of that up to the fact that Church Street is a Business Improvement District (BID), where self-generated revenue is used for these kinds of purposes,” says Norris. ” I have long supported the idea of a BID for downtown Charlottesville and I am starting to see signs that it might finally be resuscitated.”

Indeed, unlike the DTM, Church Street has an organizing body with real power to implement policy, and manage and promote the district. Like the DTM, Church Street has had the same issues with panhandling, homelessness, and controlling disruptive behavior so that people feel comfortable and safe. The difference is they’ve been able to implement programs that have made things better.

“If it’s not safe and clean, then it’s not fun,” says Church Street’s executive director Ron Redmon. “Focus on the first two and the fun is a natural outcome.  And our Community Policing program has made the biggest difference for our Street.”

Indeed, Church Street actually has a 4-person “Street Outreach Team” made up of social workers who act as liaisons between businesses on the street and the Burlington Police Department, helping to defuse situations before the police have to get involved. They offer “support to individuals with psychiatric disabilities, substance abuse problems, homelessness issues and unmet social service needs,” according to program literature. The City also recently passed a new trespassing ordinance, which means if you’re cited for unlawful behavior, public intoxication, or disorderly conduct anywhere in the district, you can be kicked off the street for the day. If you get cited again, you’re banned for 90 days. A third offense, you get banned for up to a year.

Charlottesville Police Chief Tim Longo says he’s aware of Burlington’s program, and he intends to contact the Chief of Police in Burlington to learn more.

“Our social services director visited there last year while on her vacation and had some positive comments,” says Longo.

Church Street has also tackled the issue of panhandling with a public information campaign aimed at people who might be inclined to give money. The literature encourages people not to feel guilty about saying “no,” and points out that much of what they give can go to alcohol and drugs. As an alternative, there are “drop boxes” on Church Street (that look like alligators with their mouths open) where people can deposit change and bills that will go toward funding social services in the area.

“Every downtown is different,” says Redmond. “We do share some similarities, of course.  But solutions must come from your stakeholders getting together and talking it out.  Steal from others for ideas and strategies, but you’ll have to put a home-grown spin on it.”

According to Norris, there has been some movement on finally creating a BID for the DTM.

“No formal proposal has emerged yet that I’m aware of, but in general it seems to be getting a pretty good reception so far among property owners at least,” says Norris. ” As you may recall, we almost had a BID about 10 years ago but there was some controversy about how large the proposed district was and the proposal died on the vine.”

“It’s obvious that the government of Burlington and the business owners work together to improve their downtown, and they’re achieved results that are in many ways superior to what we’ve achieved so far,” says Brown. “The City and the downtown business owners need to work together to solve issues involving parking, panhandling, public safety, and marketing the place better.”

Links to Burlington initiatives:

Church Street Community Policing Program

Panhandling Outreach

Church Street Tresspassing Ordinance

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No music for Moto Saloon

In Food & Wine, Government, Music on October 10, 2012 at 10:18 am

The Hook–Across the street from one of the more quiet businesses in town, tombstone retailer W. A. Hartman Memorials on East Market Street, a neighborhood kerfuffle over music came to an end recently when Charlottesville City Council laid to rest the Black Market Moto Saloon‘s bid for a music hall permit.

The decision followed a 5-1 nod for a special use permit by the Charlottesville Planning Commission, based on a city staff report that determined a music hall would have no substantially adverse effects on the neighborhood. As one long-time Commission member told the Hook, such near-unanimous recommendations are “rarely” rejected.

So what happened? READ MORE

Photo of Black Market Moto Saloon owner Matteus Frankovich by Courtney Stuart

Ambassadors or bouncers?

In Crime, Government, Safety on September 6, 2012 at 3:26 pm

DTM business owners and patrons have apparently been giving City Council an earful about rude or aggressive behavior from some folks on the DTM, and so council has decided to spend $80,000 to hire four “Downtown Mall ambassadors.” Councilor have been quick to say its not a “crack down” on the homeless, though much of the “problem behavior” likely comes from that population, but instead a way to make people feel welcome on the Mall. Ambassadors, they say, will “assist tourists, provide extra maintenance, build relationships with business owners, and help direct the homeless to appropriate service providers, among other things,” says the DP.  Hmmm…still unclear exactly how they will prevent bad behavior, not just from the homeless, but from folks pouring out of bars and shows late at night. This could be something to watch. And that’s what council has decided to do: fund the program for a year and see what happens. Photo by daquella manera

DTM meals tax revenue rising

In business, Food & Wine, Government on August 23, 2012 at 5:52 pm

According to Commissioner of Revenue Lee Richards, DTM restaurants generated $1,147,809 in meals tax revenue in 2011, up almost $115,000 from 2010. And, because of some dated tracking, that doesn’t include revenue generated by restaurants on the DTM’s side streets. Starting in 2009, over all city meals tax revenue (which is roughly $6.7 million) began to fall for the first time in nearly a decade, but began to pick up in 2011.

So, will it continue to rise in 2012? We’ll have to wait for those figures, but with the increasing number of eateries going up on the DTM, some wonder if the market is getting saturated. What do you think?

Hipsters vs neighbors in the Woolen Mills?

In business, Food & Wine, Government, Music, People on July 24, 2012 at 5:52 pm

The Black Market Moto Saloon was shut down by city officials for hosting live music without a special use permit, and it looks like the old live music vs neighbors debate has been re-sparked once again, a la Bel Rio (without the embezzement and skipping town). In fact, it appears the Woolen Mills neighborhood association president has resigned after referring to the Saloon’s (and nearby Lunchbox, also an apparent noise creator) clientele there as “hipster douchebags.” Some think the Saloon owner got what he deserved, others think the City is squashing culture.

Black Market Moto Saloon Facebook Page

Seems they think they’ve been unfairly targeted: “Be sure to check-out the C-ville article on our music issue today. In the past six months there have been 13 noise complaints. 12 have been for the Lunchbox and one was “in the area”. Come sign that petition tonite! Especially if you live in the neighborhood.”

The Hook: Music mayhem: Should live acts play on Market Street?

The Hook learned that Woolen Mills Neighborhood Association President Dunham, citing online “vitriol,” announced her resignation. “The hyperbole amps up and feeds on itself, and we have chaos,” she wrote in an email to neighbors. “It’s just careless and hurtful, and utterly unnecessary.”

One neighbor, however, reveals that Dunham has engaged in some online vitriol of her own, as postings on her Facebook page, in apparent reference to the Black Market Moto Saloon, refer to an “infestation of vermin” and “hipster douchebags” in the neighborhood.

Cville: Officials pull the plug on live music in Woolen Mills

“We did not have any music,” Frankovich said regarding the evening the Saloon was shut down. “We had a nice dinner crowd. Meanwhile, across the street at the Lunchbox, they’re having an outdoor hip hop show.” Under the impression that both restaurants had received warnings at the same time, Frankovich said he wondered if the city was acting on “some sort of personal vendetta.”

Daily Progress: ‘Bel Rio — Part Deux’? City halts more permit-less music

Jim Tolbert, the city’s director of neighborhood development services, accompanied by two police officers and three fire officials, shut Frankovich down late last week after learning that the Moto Saloon was hosting unauthorized music.

Tolbert said the saloon opened “under the pretense of being a restaurant,” and its certificate of occupancy specifically states that there can be no amplified music.

“They just chose to ignore it and moved on,” Tolbert said, adding that the saloon got an emailed warning on June 22.
Police were called to a concert at the saloon last Thursday night, Tolbert said, which alerted officials to the code violation.
City officials notified the saloon Friday via posted notice that its certificate of occupancy had been revoked, and the fire department noticed the saloon was still open on Saturday, Tolbert said.

Dunham responds

See Ms. Durham’s comments about this post in the comment section below.

 

City pulls chairs out from under homeless

In Architecture, Government, Infrastructure, Safety on June 23, 2012 at 6:35 pm

Five benches around the Central Place fountain were removed because of “behavior problems” from some of those who have been using them, the Newsplex reports. But one homeless man makes a good point: “I understand there’s some noise, but the thing is, you don’t have to take the chairs out for that; pinpoint the ones who are making the noise and deal with them that way.” The City says some business owners complained.

Pot discussion at City Hall tonight

In Crime, Government on May 7, 2012 at 2:03 pm

Okay, this should be interesting. If you’re not doing anything tonight, head down the City Hall on the DTM and catch the city council discussion on pot. Councilors are expected to take action on a resolution to make busting people in Charlottesville for pot possession less of a priority for the police.

Even the Rutherford Institute is calling for the measure.

“Marijuana is everywhere,” said Rutherford president John Whitehead in a release. “Even the president of the United States said he inhaled, so it’s everywhere. Let’s focus on real issues like urban problems, gang problems, homelessness and get off of this thing.”

As Whitehead points out, a Harvard study found that close to $250 is spent every year in Virginia on making pot arrests and putting people in jail.

It all happens tonight at 7pm in City Hall Chambers.

Photo by Thomas Hawk

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