JAMESTOWN – Jamestown city officials spent a great deal of time Monday night responding to a series of complaints about downtown noise and entertainment raised by a city resident during the past few months.
Jamestown Mayor Sam Teresi, City Attorney Peter Larson, and Zach Agett from the Jamestown Renaissance Corporation (JRC) spent 40+ minutes during the Jamestown City Council’s work session responding to a series of recent complaints and allegations of code violations brought forward by downtown resident Gary Templin.
Since February, Templin has attended several city council public safety committee meetings to voice his displeasure about outdoor events that feature amplified music, saying they are in violation of city code. He’s also said the city’s special event permit process that allows for outdoor events is in violation of the city zoning law.
The most recent complaints brought forward by Templin included an 11-page letter to the public safety committee in May, in which he not only lays out his charges of code violations by the city, but also is heavily critical of city officials – past and present – along with the JRC. The letter also tried to connect downtown events to a decline in downtown business, claiming they’ve resulted in more businesses leaving downtown because of the street closures that are required for some of them.
Teresi said several of the items listed in that letter were flat out wrong and incorrect, including the claim that events are driving businesses and development away from the downtown area.
“What killed retail in downtown Jamestown? Was it the advent of suburbs? Shopping malls? Big box stores in a no-growth economy? Was it the advent of Internet shopping? Or was it a few public events a year in which a street might have been closed down for a matter of a few hours?” Teresi asked rhetorically.
Teresi also pointed to over $250 million in private and public investment in downtown development during the past 15 years, saying it illustrates that there is a renewed interested in the downtown and recent years and part of that relates to the activities and entertainment that it provides.
“It’s being driven, not by a desire to be out on Walden Pond some place, but the investment in downtown residential is being driven by people wanting to be downtown because of what downtown currently offers and what downtown has the potential to offer,” Teresi said.
Larson also addressed Templin’s alleged code and zoning ordinance violations, saying he disagrees with Templin’s interpretation of the law, though he couldn’t get into to many specifics during the public portion of the meeting because of the possibility of litigation.
“I am of the conclusion that the practices of the council and the public safety committee, as it has been, is within the code,” Larson explained. “I will go into more detail in executive session because i do have to, at this point, consider Mr. Templin a potential litigant to the point that I don’t think the city should discuss potential strategy in open session.”
While the city feels it is on legal ground to continue having downtown events with amplified music moving forward, Teresi acknowledged that it may be time to update the city code as it pertains to downtown entertainment activity to ensure there is no confusion about what can and can not be permitted.
“There’s language that may not be applicable for today, such as ‘amusements.’ That’s a term from the 50s,” Teresi said. “Amusements conjure up an amusement park, circuses, the firemen’s gala days. Not a folk music concert series or a public market that runs for a limited time or ends before everybody is going to bed.”
Currently there is no mention of amplified music or musical entertainment in the city zoning law and instead, the only thing that is mentioned is restriction on where Amusement Enterprises can be located.
Meanwhile, Teresi concluded he feels city officials are doing the right thing to help improve the quality of life for residents and businesses in the community and they will continue to allow downtown entertainment activities to continue in the future.
“We try very hard and in some cases you’re not going to make everybody happy, but if the bulk of the community is in agreement and is benefiting. And the business community is happy, that’s what we can shoot for so just keep doing what we’ve been doing and try to be the best at it,” Teresi said.
Agett was and said that by and large, the downtown businesses his organization has talked to have all said they appreciate downtown entertainment activities, even if some lead to temporary street closures. He shared positive comments from two downtown businesses – both Forte Restaurant and Full Moon Rising Bakery. In addition, representatives from Crown Street Roasting Co. were also in attendance and said there business benefits the downtown events and hope they will continue in the future.
Templin was not in attendance during last night’s meeting.