'Anti-Skid Row' ordinance debated

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A debate over word choice started a workshop to look at changes to village of Bosque Farms ordinances which would regulate certain types of businesses that may have a negative impact on the village.

The planning and zoning commission has met several times over the last two months to refine and write an "anti-Skid Row" ordinance for the village.

The purpose of the ordinance is to prevent high densities of certain types of businesses along the main business thoroughfare, Bosque Farms Boulavard.

The planning and zoning commission and village council and mayor held a workshop Monday to go over the ordinance once more before the council considers it for a vote on Thursday, Aug. 9. That meeting begins at 7:30 p.m.

Village resident Leigh Wharton said the term "Skid Row" was "extremely negative, deleterious verbiage. I would like to see something else."

Mayor Bob Knowlton said the reason the village was considering the ordinance, and using and defining the term "Skid Row" was to establish what the village wanted to avoid.

"This is saying what we don't want," Knowlton said. Wharton said she would like to see other language.

"Well, what would you call it?" asked Councilor Wayne Ake.

Wharton said she didn't have an alternative since she had just received draft copy of the proposed ordinance with the term.

Planning and Zoning Commissioner John Craig said there are areas in large cities that were "devastated with this kind of effect. One business does not a Skid Row make. There are certain businesses that attract a particular type of people. We need to call it what it is."

Resident Lillie McNabb agreed, saying, "You can't candy coat it."

Wharton argued that it was "negative language" that indicated "we might have that kind of thing here."

Ake said using the term "anti-Skid Row" spelled out what the village was trying to prevent.

Theresa Blake, a village resident, also said the language was negative.

"During community watch, there are some of these places that are not together that you could call that and it would be a stretch," Blake said. "If there's someone looking to do these kinds of things, they can say, 'Hey I know where there's a Skid Row,' and come put up a tent."

Dan Garrison, the chairman of the planning and zoning commission, said the ordinance wasn't trying to describe what is already present in the village.

"It's what we want to prevent," Garrison said.

One type of business the new ordinance will regulate is smoke shops, Garrison said. The ordinance defines a smoke shop as a business that dedicated 15 percent or more floor space to the display of tobacco products or derives 25 percent or more of its total sales from tobacco products.

Commissioner Sharon Eastman said the purpose of specifying square footage and sales percentages was to try and exclude filling stations.

"They do sell cigarettes, but it's not their primary business," Eastman said.

In reviewing the new regulations for secondhand dealers, Councilor Dolly Wallace was adamant that the prohibition on displaying merchandise outside the store be struck.

"We are taking away their ability to advertise. They do it in a very neat, attractive way," Wallace said. "This is discrimination."

Eastman said she was the one who had the "heartburn" over the outside displays.

"You go down the street and there's junk here and junk there," she said. "They can put a sign out that says used furniture, come on in. Our business district looks terrible."

Wallace argued it would put the secondhand dealers at a "huge disadvantage. We allow new merchandise on the outer edge of a business. This is discriminatory against used, and I don't think we can do it."

Ake said he thought they could keep items out of the public right of way, such as sidewalks. Knowlton hypothesized that banning merchandise displayed outside of a retail structure might unintentionally eliminate the flea market.

Eastman pointed out there is already a definition of a flea market in the ordinances.

"I think a lot of flea market seller fall under the secondhand definition directly," Knowlton said.

Craig said the commission had discussed the matter at length and the final decision laid with the village council.

The commissioners and councilors also discussed whether to implement a "sunset clause" in the ordinance to give existing businesses time to come into compliance.

The council will discuss that matter as well as the administrative fees proposed in the ordinance at the Thursday meeting.


-- Email the author at jdendinger@news-bulletin.com.