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Council offers compromise on Culpeper Day street closure

(Editor's note: This story contains additional information on a special meeting of the Culpeper Parking Authority that we received after the print edition of Culpeper Times went to press Monday afternoon.)

Closing of streets for a perennial downtown family festival has developed into a point of friction between some on the Culpeper Town Council and the Culpeper Ruritans.

As has been done since 1979, the Ruritans asked the council last month to close off Davis Street for Culpeper Day which occurs in the spring – generally the first Saturday in May.

After some discussion then and in a later committee meeting it appeared there might be enough votes among council members to deny the request.

After the October meeting, Councilman Dave Lochridge met with Ruritan club representative Billy Walter, who presented the original request, and it appeared a deal had been struck to keep Culpeper Day on Davis Street.

However, just before the vote at the Nov. 13 meeting, Councilman Bobby Ryan, a supporter of the Davis Street merchants who say the festival is causing them lost revenue, offered an amendment.

The original motion, offered by Lochridge with the support of both Culpeper Renaissance, Inc. and the Ruritans, would have allowed closing of the 200 block of East Davis Street but kept the 100 block open.

Ryan's amendment, which was supported by all of the councilmen (Ben Phillips was absent) with the exception of Lochridge and Mayor Chip Coleman, allows only part of the 200 block – the area used for Third Thursday events – to be blocked off. The action would also still have to be approved by the Culpeper Parking Authority.

“For Third Thursday we only block off half the street and I think that's the way we ought to do this,” Ryan said.

Councilman Dan Boring, while commending the work done by Lochridge, suggested that perhaps a “festival district” could be established downtown utilizing similar space as Third Thursday.

“Make that what we offer,” Boring said. “Organizations needing more space would have to look elsewhere.”

After the meeting Walter said he wasn't happy with the result.

“There has been a lot of discussion about this between last month and this month,” Walter told Culpeper Times. “With the amendment, this agreement is now different than what was discussed (with Lochridge). In those discussions we were told we would be able to use the entire 200 block.

“We'll have to make do, because that is what they have given us. We'll make do.”

However, the issue may not be resolved.

“ [Culpeper Day] is a 33-year-old tradition and I believe the agreement I made with Mr. Lochridge accommodates the merchants. I'll have to see how the club feels about this,” Walter said.
Proceeds from Culpeper Day enable the Ruritans to fund community projects and scholarships.

The Culpeper Parking Authority is holding a special meeting Nov. 30 in the third floor conference room at Town Hall. One of the agenda items is the request by the Culpeper Ruritan Club to utilize the East Davis Street parking lot for Culpeper Day vendor spaces from 6 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The council also resurrected the title of “assistant town manager” and approved a deck for the Smokehouse Restaurant downtown.

In the former instance, Mary Murphy, human resources manager, explained to the council that the title of “operations manager” now held by Chris Hively, who oversees the water and sewage treatment plants, has created some confusion at conferences.

Murphy suggested that since “assistant town manager” is a more recognizable term that it be used for Hively instead. Culpeper had an assistant town manager position about seven years ago, but it has not been used recently.

Council approved the change with the understanding that neither Hively's duties nor his salary would change.

In the latter instance, the council voted 8-0 to allow the Smokehouse to use a 24-by-24 outdoor area between Commerce Street and the Depot for a deck. The owners of the Smokehouse, Kevin and Mike Baker, will pay the town $90 a year for the privilege of leasing the space for five years and also post a bond in case the restaurant should be vacated and the deck needs to be removed by the owner of the building at some future time.

The next regular council meeting is scheduled for Dec. 11, beginning at 7 p.m. in the Culpeper County Board of Supervisor's meeting room, 306 N. Main St.
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