Monday, the Richmond Common Council (of which I am a member) will be asked to consider an ordinance that would prohibit institutional uses within the city’s downtown district, from 5th Street to 10th Street, North A to South A.
The ordinance, if passed, would allow banks and barbershops, bars, restaurants, hotels/motels, office space, specialty shops, fitness centers and funeral homes.
Those, of course, are property tax-paying businesses.
It would prohibit the location of churches, community centers, hospitals, jails, libraries, museums and others in the downtown district.
Those, of course are (in general) non-property tax-paying businesses.
Those who are already there can stay, but no new non-profits would be allowed to locate downtown.
The ordinance was brought forward by Councilman Larry Parker, who envisions the downtown district as a “retail district,” one of commerce where citizens visit to work, shop, eat, do business and be entertained.
The ordinance, if passed, in theory would help attract more businesses to the city’s central business district, which would then attract more shoppers, more development and pump new life into the old buildings downtown.
The Richmond Advisory Plan Commission (of which I am also a member) considered the ordinance last week and voted 6-0 to recommend denial to council.
The city’s plan staff recommended denial, citing goals for the downtown district which would “allow for a diverse set of different land uses, where many institutional uses are meant to work in harmony with permitted commercial and residential properties.”
The plan staff also cited the Richmond Rising Community Action Plan to include (among others):
* Promoting reuse and redevelopment of existing sites and structures throughout Richmond to encourage an efficient use of resources to foster revitalization;
* Generating a thriving economy through diversifying the city’s economic base and responding to industry needs by providing opportunities for lifelong learning and workforce development services and programs;
* Continuing to meet the changing needs of the city’s residents through public safety, and support health, education and religious institutions while promoting safe and healthy lifestyles;
* Partner and collaborate with local nonprofit organizations to help achieve their missions and provide residents needed services.
Under Parker’s proposal, non-profits could locate in the central business district but would have to first petition the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals for a variance.
I have talked to several business owners downtown, all of whom supported Parker’s proposal. They said they would like to see a clear plan for downtown Richmond development, one that would encourage more retail development and more specialty shopping and living opportunities.
The city’s Law Department has also wondered if passage of such an ordinance could open the city to “scrutiny” under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act.
So now the question comes to Common Council. Monday’s meeting will include a public hearing in which citizens will have their say. So please join us, if you are interested, and let us know what you think.