How can we cultivate growth and long-term investment downtown?
NTH’s editorial on Thursday Sept. 13 called me out as an opponent – actually the single opponent – to an arts and entertainment district being proposed for Newnan.
Since my views were misrepresented, I would like to reply to that article in an effort to clarify the facts.
The piece began with an explanation of a proposal by the city council to create an arts and entertainment district for the purpose of streamlining the process of securing permits for special events like Market Day, Taste of Newnan, etc. It also noted that the idea of “more and better” was met with approval from residents who attended two meetings held in the last few weeks.
However, I was accused of “hamstringing” efforts to hold events at night, and “making demands about noise after 10 p.m.” This is inaccurate.
I am not opposed to “nighttime events.” I am not opposed to a vibrant, exciting and successful downtown. Quite the contrary. The potential for revitalization is why my wife and I came here in 1990. In fact, we were so committed to that idea we invested everything in it – raising our family and starting our business uptown.
I have never made demands about anything pertaining to Mr Rizzo’s struggle with the noise ordinances. I’m not sure what noise at a local business has to do with “special events,” but since the paper brought it up…
I have requested for three years now – with very limited success – that the city enforce its own laws about noise. These laws were already on the books many years before RPM or The Cellar opened. They were clarified and re-approved unanimously by the council last winter. Those laws do not outlaw noise, but they do regulate how it impacts neighbors and how late it may persist. They are similar to laws which most communities have to protect the rights of their citizens, and they are consistent with Georgia law.
It was suggested that my home is in an inappropriate place – “on U.S.Highway 29, only a block from downtown.”
I have lived in that historic home for 28 years. I received an award for its rehabilitation from the Newnan-Coweta Historical Society in 2002. It has been used as a residence, continuously, for over 100 years.
Today, I counted 75 other historic homes on U.S Highway 29 from Platinum Point to the Greenville-LaGrange Historic District. More importantly, there are many other residents who call the central business district home. There are apartments within a block of the courthouse on North Court Square, East Court Square, Jefferson Street, LaGrange Street and Spring Street. There are new townhomes and a converted warehouse on Perry Street.
There is also a new residential complex being built across from the justice center. In fact, most of the commercial buildings downtown are currently zoned to permit residential apartments upstairs, and have been for years. Included is the house next door to mine, and the one next door to RPM.
Here’s what I really think.
Ironically, I had a conversation with the assistant city manager the day before the editorial was published. I volunteered to serve on the ad hoc committee to look into the proposed district. I suggested that we study other communities nearby who are similar in size and demographic to Newnan who have successfully revitalized their historic downtowns. Certainly, we can profit from what places like Woodstock, Lilburn, Roswell and Chamblee have learned.
The strength of our downtown is the diverse economic base. We did not have that 28 years ago. We have bars and restaurants, art galleries, interior design firms, retail shops, a coffee shop, a bakery, a candy store, a record shop, etc. We also have professional services and residents who live, work and shop downtown.
If we are going to designate downtown something that it isn’t yet, like an entertainment district, perhaps we can use that designation to accomplish more than just streamlining permits for special events. What can we do to benefit all the segments of our community including – but not limited to – the entertainment segment? Our ongoing success is about encouraging continued long term investment, and sustaining a high quality of life.