Dueling Petitions Question Safety of Downtown Mall Crossings
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - The Charlottesville Downtown Mall vehicle crossings are once again a hot topic of discussion in the city. With a pair of dueling petitions circulating online, a debate about their fate took center stage at Monday night's City Council meeting.
Earlier this month, a petition was launched asking the city to permanently close the mall crossings at 4th and 2nd streets. Now, the downtown businesses who fear that decision would hurt their bottom lines are circulating their own petition asking the opposite.
The Downtown Business Association has collected more than 270 signatures on an online petition in response to a petition earlier this month created by Aileen Bartels asking the city to close the crossings.
"The experience of visiting the mall is being free of that worry about cars so I think more people would come if they didn't have to worry about it," Bartels said earlier this month.
Business owners say prohibiting drivers from passing through the mall will create headaches for delivery drivers, limit the dropping off of handicapped people or children, and stunt sales. Some say the crossings to not pose much of a treat to pedestrians as people like Bartels believe.
"Except when riots are occurring, I have never seen anybody drive or be anything but cautious as they gingerly drive across the mall," said Blair Williamson.
City Councilor Wes Bellamy says the reason some people want to see the crossings closed has to do with more than just pedestrian safety.
"A big issue is that heather Heyer was killed on that street," Bellamy said. "A lot of people don't like that we have an open street that people can drive through where someone lost their life so it's to commemorate that fact and honoring that space."
The petition to close the crossings gathered 355 signatures, but has recently been taken down. City Manager Tarron Richardson says the city is still awaiting a report from an outside consultant on the safety and security of the entire Downtown Mall.