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A Never-Ending Battle: Street Closings Again up For Discussion

Ordinance & License Committee set to review a request from Alderwoman Kathleen Cummings to review the street closing ordinance.

Street closings in Waukesha and possible changes to the ordinance are again up for discussion, despite

in Waukesha after became so popular that the police department shut down the downtown streets for the weekly music event because of safety reasons. Not every business owner and downtown residents are pleased with the decision and the results of the downtown taskforce.

The Ordinance & License Committee will take up a referral from Alderwoman Kathleen Cummings about the issue at 6:30 p.m. tonight (Aug. 27) at City Hall.

Cummings is asking the committee to define duties and responsibilities for the organizers who are closing the streets during a special event.

“The criteria in the present ordinance for closing a street is minimal; it requires that the application be completed and that no other entity has already requested a street closing permit for the same location,” states Cummings referral to the committee. “The rationale for this referral is closing a street to vehicles even for a short time has myriad impacts on those that live, work or travel on the closed street. Other communities have street closing ordinances that ensure that the municipality minimizes its liability, that events are well run and cause minimal impact on residents and businesses and furthermore provide those most impacted by the street closing to have opportunity for input. The city ordinance should be revised to address these issues.”

However, Mayor Jeff Scrima noted the downtown taskforce that was reviewing the ordinance and other downtown issues sent its recommendations before the Common Council, which it approved 12-2, according to the mayor. The recommendations are attached to this article.

“Thank you for your careful review of city ordinances,” Scrima said in an email to aldermen, downtown stakeholders, city employees and members of the media. “For a plan and outcome that the thousands of people

St. Swithin August 27, 2012 at 05:06 PM
I really fail to see the issue here. The street closing make FFNL a lot more welcoming and enjoyable. It would probably kill it to leave those streets open during the event. Parking on those streets is minimal anyway. Customers for businesses on the affected streets can park just a block away. This Friday I attended and saw dancing in the street in front of Magellan's and polka in front of Montecito's. Is that what we want to stop? (Of course, the way some of those people were dancing was not a pretty sight...)
Johnny Paycheck August 27, 2012 at 05:45 PM
The street closing is great for some businesses and hurts others... Last time I talked to the guy who owned the tattoo shop he was in a world of hurt because of it.
St. Swithin August 27, 2012 at 06:22 PM
Sorry, I don't see it. Are tattoo customers really saying "gosh, I can't park right in front of the store so I won't get a tattoo."? Is this the one next to House of Guinness? They have lots of parking around back. Are tattoo customers sensitive to loud noise and crowds? I saw lots of ink at FFNL. Did they get it at a competitor? The street closings turn the place into an outdoor mall. Compare the street traffic your average Main Street store gets on Friday night compared to any other time. People's Park loses their lot across the street, yet they still pack the place on Fridays.
Johnny Paycheck August 27, 2012 at 07:18 PM
I'm not sure I understand what you're getting at St. Swithin. Is it that the business owners who say the street closure is hurting them are liars? From my own experience there I saw lots of people milling around the streets, but nobody seemed to going into the stores or at least not leaving them with merchandise in their hands...
St. Swithin August 27, 2012 at 07:35 PM
Liars, huh? You cut to the chase. Let's just say I fail to see how the street closings would adversely affect a business located there. Nor have you provided an explanation. You describe "people milling around the streets" but not buying. How is that worse than nobody milling around and not buying? FFNL attracts a large number of locals that probably would not otherwise go downtown. From 'milling around' they become aware of the stores. If they choose not to buy that is not because the streets are blocked. The restaurants were certainly getting lots of business.
Christine VanderBloemen August 27, 2012 at 08:35 PM
I have been to WFFNL a number of times. It is chaotic and it is difficult to even watch where you are going much less see the stores. Some of the downtown businesses have said that it hurts their businesses. The beauty salon on Main Street closed. I can't believe that having the street closed to your customers on a Friday night would help business nor would having a crowd in front of your store make your customers feel relaxed and pampered. The Horse Emporium said that it definitely hurts their business and are looking to move. A WDBA member stated that he is not worried because they can always rent to someone else. Not the kind of comment a business wants to hear. Your are disposable. Your business adds nothing to our downtown. Also, obviously this same person is not the owner of this property. Maybe he wouldn't be so flippant if he were. I have also heard that there is an increase in retail theft during WFFNL. As to the tattoo artist next to Magellians, the mirrors on his wall would shake. Would you like to have a tattoo while the artist cannot concentrate or have a steady hand. The previous owner called it quits and moved. I have no idea what the new tattoo artist feels about it. I believe what the effected business owners state. Why would they lie?
Johnny Paycheck August 27, 2012 at 08:37 PM
I would have to say that the Freeman Friday Night is probably not much different than having the street closed for construction unless you're selling food and drinks to the crowd. Sure there is probably some exposure where people will see your sign if you have a store or other service business, but that's not why they're there. People usually know in advance when they want to buy goods and services and then seek out a store or service provider... And if the street is closed it is probably easier to buy from someplace else. Nobody wants to walk for several blocks to get to a place after they've parked their car, plus have to compete with all the revellers for parking in those areas outside of the street closure.
Herbert August 27, 2012 at 08:57 PM
Here's my two cents. My wife and I have attended nearly every FFNL this summer and we find it a very enjoyable night out. And... she even got a tattoo LOL. I can't see any business owner actually complaining about the people this event brings to the downtown area. The ONLY thing I would even beef about is people bringing thier animals down to the event.. that could be dealt with somehow but Waukesha has a great thing going!!
Johnny Paycheck August 27, 2012 at 09:39 PM
The simple truth is that each business is out for themselves, and the ones that benefit from FFNL are going to make excuses or deny that it hurts the other businesses down-town. But there is simply no motive for anyone to claim that it's hurting their business if it isn't. FFNL seems to be a backdoor effort to convert the downtown into an pseudo entertainment district. Not that I would mind having an entertainment district, but they should at least be honest about what they're doing and possibly plan to have a shopping district as well so the folks who are getting pushed out have somewhere to go.
Chris B August 27, 2012 at 10:05 PM
The committee's discussion isn't about FFNL, its about the street closure ordinance Since this ordinance would apply to the WHOLE CITY other events will be impacted as well. I get that FFNL will be impacted, but I do not believe the committee and Common Council can have an ordinance that will just benefit or not benefit one particular event. I would ask the committee to keep in mind what is best for the city as a whole but at the same time respects an individual's rights to access their property.
Mainstreet TheShaw August 27, 2012 at 11:52 PM
Is it true Jeff Scrima is going to do stand up comedy like he does at city hall?
Erik Helgestad August 28, 2012 at 02:31 PM
As a downtown resident, my wife and I have loved the events downtown. Changing the ordinances would have impacts beyond FFNL, and should be considered very carefully. Back to FFNL though, it's been fantastic to invite friends, family, and coworkers who have not been to Waukesha in a long time come and walk through downtown. Many come back then during the day then to see the other businesses (Plowshare, Merrils, etc). I've had business visitors stay at the Clarke as well, and comment that they wish their downtowns were like ours (coming from a Portland resident as well). I'm still having a hard time understanding how a weekly, popular event that draws foot traffic to our downtown would be a bad thing for businesses on a Friday evening. If I'm not mistaken, it wasn't that long ago that many businesses downtown would be closed at 4pm, and downtown would be pretty much dead on a Friday evening. If businesses are truly having issues (such as the tattoo artist), then they need to work with their neighbors to resolve that, and work with the organizers as well. If we want to have our downtown grow and prosper and fill the empty storefronts, we cannot continue to bicker and fight like this as a community.
Chris B August 28, 2012 at 03:03 PM
Erik, all great points! I agree that changes to the street closure ordinance need to be considered carefully, but changes need to be made. For example, a once a year "block party" and residential street closure( in area zoned residential) is different than a weekly "special event" and main street closures in a commercial area with a variety of businesses. Some cities like Milwaukee and Appleton have ordinances that apply based on the type of event. Overall what needs to be kept in mind is what is best for the city BUT at the same time respects individual's rights to unobstructed access to their property.
Erik Helgestad August 28, 2012 at 09:38 PM
I agree Chris, a balance needs to be found. I hope it means we can continue having positive events for our downtown and city that everyone can enjoy, and help bring attention and people to the area.

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