The city is holding a public meeting on the proposed arts district Monday after a number of unhappy citizens petitioned Williamsburg City Council members two weeks ago to hold off on their vote.
City Council members agreed to table their decision on the proposed district, which covers area along Richmond Road and Lafayette Street around the Williamsburg Shopping Center area, to give the city time to hold a meeting and better inform residents about the plan.
The city has spent more than a year working on an arts district ordinance, which would designate a certain area as eligible for limited tax and fee reductions for art-related businesses. Perks of starting or expanding an arts business in the district will include five years worth of Business, Professional and Occupational License (BPOL) and sales tax reductions as well as fee waivers for qualified businesses.
According to the city’s Economic Development Director Michele DeWitt, there would be no impact on a landlord’s ability to rent out their property, and any business was free to move to the district, not just art-related businesses (these other businesses just wouldn’t get the incentives).
At council’s meeting on January 13, several property owners argued that they didn’t know the specifics about the arts district ordinance and that the city should have included them in the discussion. They also said the city didn’t do a good job notifying owners about the plans. The owners also expressed several other fears, some of which showed confusion about the ordinance, including the concern that property would be taken by the city through eminent domain, student housing would be affected, and that parking problems would get worse.
The public meeting on the proposed district will take place at 7 p.m. Monday at the Stryker Building on North Boundary Street.