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Friday, May 11, 2007

Where Is Waynesboro Going Wrong? - By William Mi Kolay

Main Street Discount

Where Is Waynesboro Going Wrong?
In May of last year I opened a small business
in Downtown Waynesboro and so far, so good. In
March we averaged 846 customers per week. For
a small discount store, that’s pretty good. That’s
over 3200 people in the downtown each month. I
hesitate to say that’s more than a multi-million
dollar theater would bring to downtown. We are
good for downtown. But don’t think for a minute
downtown is good for us.

In the last 30 days, I watched 2 more businesses
move out of downtown. First the Print
Shop a few weeks ago and now Mad Anthony’s.
Next month, Cycle Recycle leaves and after that
goes Grand Furniture. So where is the town going
wrong with downtown? Giving a token investment
in WDDI to throw a few downtown events a
year is not keeping businesses in town.
If Council wants to truly bring back the business
in downtown they are going to have no
choice but to be more aggressive in their thinking.
Every member on the council says “We are for
downtown business and downtown development”.
The facts don’t support that. If you truly are supportive,
make it a priority. And if its worth
doing…………… It’s worth doing RIGHT.

1. Pick a Theme
You can’t expect a company to invest heavily
in their building when you have a BIG PINK
SIGN in the front of the next business. Sorry, but
its UGLY. Other buildings also look horrible. I
don’t blame the building owners. Why invest in
something that may never rent out. The problem is
that there is no central scheme. The sidewalk and
other improvements the town has done look great
but who stares at the sidewalk. The town should
put in place a City Theme. Similar to
Charlottesville’s Colonial look. If Council wants
to throw money away on a roof for a building
that’s falling down, how about cleaning up the
ones that can be used. Make them all brick faced.
Make them all Green. It doesn’t matter. Just get
rid of the Flea Market appeal of downtown.
Moreover, make a sign ordinance with NO
GRANDFATHERING. If all the businesses had
similar signage it would be much more appealing.
Council would have to pay for these signs but they
have already invested in the sidewalks.

2. Make Downtown a FEE FREE ZONE.
Eliminate real estate taxes on all buildings
that have had an active business in them for 5
years. Real businesses that are open to the public.
Not Warehousing. That would be an incentive for
building owners to rent out the building at the
lowest possible cost to a business.
Eliminate Business license fees, trash pick-up
fees and even sewer and water costs. You want to
fill the buildings, make people want to be in that
area. Every business wants to be near the new
business development complex on the other side
of town. Don’t think for a minute that Target
moving to town or Walmart and Martins are helping
downtown. Yes, it brings more people to
Waynesboro to shop but NOT to the downtown

So do a pilot program. Take the area from
Main and Wayne down to the River and see what
happens. There are more empty buildings in that
stretch than businesses.

3. Flood Help.
I am not asking council to move the river but
a little more help than delivering a load of sand in
a parking lot with a few cases of bags would be
helpful. Purchase some flood protection barriers
for the businesses affected. Help us protect ourselves
from overflowing sewer lines and river
water. These barriers can be reused time and time
again. I can only hope they won’t be needed.
Some would say that’s not fair. I got some
breaking news for you.............. Everything in life
is not fair. Why is it fair that the Wayne theater
gets a new roof when our houses and businesses
flood? Especially since they are giving it away to
a private organization. The Council insists that
the theater is for the good of downtown. If the city
wants to “invest” in something the city needs,
“invest” in a movie theater for ALL Waynesboro.
Now, Lets talk Wayne Theater.

Let’s say you have an old shed on your property
and your neighbor would like it. So you say
yes, you can have it for a $1. Would you say but
before you take it, please, let me put a $300,000
roof on it. Some in council have to start calling it
what it is. This new roof is nothing more than a
legal way for them to funnel tax payer money to
their friends and political backers. Come on,
Waynesboro citizens are not stupid. The statement
“If we don’t put on a $300K roof, we may
have to tear down the building and that could cost
more”, that’s great if the $300K roof solves the
problem but it doesn’t. BUT YOU STILL MAY
HAVE TO TEAR IT DOWN. Give me a break.
This is only the start of MUCH MORE TO
COME. Plus when a Council person says “we are
going to get a 5:1 return on our investment”,
PROVE IT. Do you think just because you said it,
we have to believe it. Back it up with facts.
Assume the theater gets the public and city
backing to get started. When will the city’s
“Investment end”. What if they are not profitable.
What if it takes 15 years? Who will foot the bill
until then? Fifteen years from now, what upgrades
will they need? What if it fails, who’s
stuck with the bill then? And I can hardly wait to
hear a few years from now that “We have invested
$300k in a roof, so we would be stupid not to
invest $ on ? ”. This”in for a penny, in for a
pound” has to be thought out by council NOW,
even this roof thing. What if the alliance falls
apart in the middle of the project? Did council
just spend $300K on a roof just to tear it down?
You should not under-estimate Waynesboro
Taxpayers. If some in council truly think this is
truly for the good of the taxpayers………….. Let
them vote on it. Then and only then will the subject
be truly put to rest.

And I pose this question, What if the Wayne
Theater project becomes another Kate Collins.
Funny, how some of the same players are involved
in both.
We don’t need another saying like
“Remember the Wayne Theater”. We already have
one “Remember the last school project”.