Town to survey businesses on Main Street change

FRONT ROYAL – A proposal to make Main Street traffic one-way could hit a red light.

Town Council talked briefly on Tuesday about a proposal to change the traffic pattern on Main Street in downtown. Council agreed to have Town Manager Steve Burke ask business and property owners on Main Street how they feel about switching traffic to one way.

Mayor Timothy Darr’s Economic Committee plans to recommend that the town change the traffic pattern to enhance downtown. The panel also is touting this proposal as the first step toward closing Main Street to vehicle traffic and turning the road section into a pedestrian mall, similar to Loudoun Street in Winchester.

“My concern is … I think we, the town, need to do a survey of the businesses on Main Street first,” Darr said. “Independently, check with each business owner. Make sure that it’s something that they want. If it’s not something that they want then we’ve wasted a lot of our own time here.”

Arlene Ballou, who runs Brooklyn’s Marketplace on Main Street, told council the idea already has opposition.

“You probably have almost 20 shops on the block that are against the one-way street,” Ballou said.

Last month, the committee met to talk about ways to enhance the town economy and to continue the discussion about a one-way Main Street. The Planning Department also has provided a sketch of how such a change might look. The change would create seven or eight more parking spaces, according to the department’s information. The committee sees the switch as one that could slow traffic and make the street more pedestrian friendly.

Vice Mayor Hollis Tharpe asked if council should first refer the matter to the Planning Commission. Darr suggested council see the results of the survey first. Councilman Eugene Tewalt said he would support sending the matter to the commission members, but would rather see them finish their work on a number of outstanding issues.

The mayor’s committee plans to put together a list of 15 initiatives aimed at improving the local economy and submit the suggestions with its final report to council this spring. The one-way street idea came to light early, prompting residents and business owners to voice their opinions about the suggestion, Darr said. As such, the mayor said he felt council should start talking about the idea. Darr added that “there’s a lot of mixed signals out there.”

“[The committee has] worked hard at this,” Darr said. “Apparently members of the committee feel it’s important and I support that committee, but I also know that there are a lot of business owners on Main Street and we want to make sure we have everybody’s opinions.”

Councilman John Connolly said he’s not seeing an economic benefit in changing Main Street.

Council should look beyond Main Street and investigate potential enhancements to Jackson Street, Darr said. If the town turns Main Street one way then it might need to adjust other downtown roads, he noted.

“We’re a long ways from ever making a decision on something like this,” Darr said.

“My livelihood doesn’t depend on whether Main Street’s one way or not,” Darr said. “There’s a lot of people that it does.”

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com