Hello Middleburg! Last month this column discussed my experience and expectations with local shops (Buy Local!). I rued changes at Wiley Wagg, recently acquired by Kriser’s Natural Pet. The new owner, Brad Kriser, replied in an email to the Eccentric. We soon spoke briefly by phone. I will see what develops, but he plans to become involved here, retaining the Wiley Wagg name and format. I am optimistic.

A Ridgeview friend contacted me, asking about an ABC License notice she saw. The notice raised concern, as its vague wording left much to the imagination. Surely not a bar in the neighborhood

I soon discussed this with Town Planner – Zoning Administrator, Will Moore. Will told me he had an application for a home occupation for a small wine import business he was investigating.

A few days later, he explained that the business involves small, infrequent delivery of wine samples. The samples are for visits to area restaurants and retailers. Interested businesses would receive wines shipped directly from the vineyard. The home business plans to store a small amount for samples. This seems to fit the Town’s definition. Once approved, the home occupation permit will include appropriate restrictions.

We had a slightly smaller crowd at the Christmas in Middleburg and Hunt Parades this year. Adding event parking on the west and the new barricades to keep spectators out of the street made this year safer than ever. Great planning also helped. The events highlighted the wonderfully renovated streets and sidewalks! Thanks to all who worked so hard to make this terrific event so enjoyable!

This month council approved an update to our Financial Policies, tightening and improving fiscal controls for the general and the utility funds. Council also adopted the wellhead protection ordinance after many months of discussion. The new ordinance will help safeguard our ground water – water we drink.

More noticeable, for folks here, council adopted the first major change to parking in the central business district. Council voted to drop metered street parking in favor of free parking. Most of this parking will include a three-hour limit. The police and our staff are evaluating electronic chalking systems to enforce these limits. The Town is acquiring new signs for three-hour (with some 15-minute) street parking.

Council hopes to approve a new chalking system. Council will also revise parking ticket fines. Chief AJ Panebianco told council that he would visit businesses to explain the changes. The businesses can then answer customer questions. When the Town implements the new parking, the Chief will start with warning tickets. After a short period, police will then issue actual tickets for parking violations.

The purpose of our regulations is to keep people moving so that parking is more available for everyone. Council debated parking for over a year before deciding on free parking. Council is now debating the appropriate fines for violations. We need fines to make the new system work. Time limits and fines must move cars out of a street spot often enough to make spots available for others.

So why change? Parking is a poor revenue source. In fact, the Town spent more on metered parking than it received from the meters. Meters had deteriorated and needed replacing. Manufacturers are dropping coin meters for credit card based meters or kiosk systems. These are expensive, and council faced over $50,000 if it wished to acquire a new meter system, worsening the imbalance. In short, parking fees would rise dramatically if council chose metering.

The new system includes modest costs to acquire the electronic chalking system. As with meters, the police must spend time to enforce time limits. Locals and visiting shoppers will no longer fish for change (or spend more to pay for a new metering system) because parking is now free.

Council expects the three-hour limit to provide ample time for most shoppers, while moving people out of spots often enough to make street parking available to others. Council also expects the limits to keep merchants from parking in the three-hour spots. This will make them more available to customers. Council will designate longer-term parking areas for merchants and staff as we implement the limited areas.

What do you think? Please send questions, suggestions, comments or complaints regarding any topic to the Eccentric for Ask a Council Member. I would love to hear from you!

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