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Skating ban uptown OK'd

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

A ban on skating and skateboarding in uptown Martinsville apparently will result in the city losing a new business.

Martinsville City Council on Tuesday adopted on second reading an amended ordinance enacting the ban. The vote, which makes the ordinance official, was unanimous.

Under the ordinance amendment, people no longer can use skateboards, roller skates, rollerblades, scooters or similar devices uptown. Violators will face a $50 civil fine.

Complaints about skateboarders damaging property at sites in the central business district, including the renovated former Henry County courthouse, prompted the ban.

Ernest Harr of Ridgeway told the council it is not costly to repair damages caused by skateboarding. He said he has seen things uptown that look bad due to “poor worksmanship” more than due to skateboarding damages.

First Baptist Church alone has suffered about $10,000 in damages to its property as a result of skateboarders, said Councilman Mark Stroud.

“We need to try and do what we need to do to protect property owners,” Stroud said.

Harr, whose son, Ethan, is a skateboarder, said he was considering opening a skateboarding shop uptown. Before the council’s vote was taken, he said that if the ban is enacted, he would not open the shop.

Skateboarding shops elsewhere, including Greensboro, N.C., have customers from Martinsville and Henry County, Harr said based on what he has been told when he visited those shops.

He made his comments shortly after Laura Bowles, executive director of the Martinsville Uptown Revitalization Association, told the council about an effort to encourage people to shop locally.

Harr said he thinks that if the city would put more effort into enforcing its laws on vandalism and property damage, there would be no need to prohibit skateboarding uptown.

Mayor Kim Adkins said she originally felt that way. However, she said she was told by city police officers that it is “nearly impossible” to enforce the other laws. She now thinks a ban on skateboarding is needed to help police protect both public and private property uptown, she added.

Councilman Danny Turner said people uptown constantly “have to look both ways” to avoid running into skateboarders.

“As you get older,” he said, “you don’t have the flexibility” needed to move out of their way as quickly.

The skateboarding ban covers an area from Oakdale Street behind the YMCA, Virginia Museum of Natural History and First Baptist Church west to the Commonwealth Boulevard/Market Street intersection.

It includes other uptown properties including other churches, the Blue Ridge Regional Library and Piedmont Community Services, officials said.

Although the area includes the business district, it does not include nearby walking trails. City Attorney Eric Monday emphasized that skateboarding still will be allowed on the trails.

Also Tuesday, the council made four appointments after a closed session to consider possible board and commission appointments.

Lisa Smith was appointed to the Southern Area Agency on Aging’s board, James Esters was appointed to the Southern Virginia Recreation Facilities Authority, Abby Ozbun was appointed as a student representative on the Martinsville Transportation Safety Commission, and City Councilwoman Sharon Brooks Hodge was appointed as the council’s representative on the West Piedmont Planning District Commission.

The council also met privately to discuss legal and personnel matters but took no action afterward.


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