By Cory Smith
Lexington residents told city officials Monday they like much of the Downtown Enhancement Plan. But they worry about its cost, and how the city will pay for it.
“I like … the pedestrian-friendly and bike-friendly aspects that make it easier to travel through the streets and corridors,” Lexington resident Lyndon Sayers said at a final public forum on the proposal.
Sayers also agrees with the overall message of the plan, which is to get more tourists and residents downtown.
“Let’s try to keep people downtown a little longer,” Sayers said. “Come hang out at Hopkins Green, go for your gelato, have a nice place to sit on a bench, have some tree cover. I think those are all things that would make Lexington more attractive.”
But some residents are wary of the $4 million price tag the city has estimated for the plan.
“For those of us who live in the city and are facing increased taxes, I just hope that if we move forward with this that we stage it appropriately and make sure we have the funding before we embark on it,” Elizabeth Branner said.
City Director of Planning Michael Zehner told the capacity crowd in the Lylburn Downing Middle School cafeteria that the plan could be implemented in phases. That would keep residents from taking a financial hit all at once.
City Council and the Planning Commission joined representatives of three consulting firms, hired by the city to help design the final proposal, to answer questions and listen to comments from the public.
One proposal that prompted questions calls for making Main Street two-way from Nelson Street to White Street.
“I could see all kind of problems,” resident Clyde Mull said. “All your vendors with their deliveries and so forth, that would be very disruptive.”
Mull also suggested that if the city wanted to make Main Street two-way, it should also consider making Jefferson Street two-way.
“You would kind of defeat your purpose [if you didn’t],” he said. “If you did one, you would have to do both. I just don’t see how it would work.”
But Sayers thought that making Main Street two-way would be worth a try.
“I trust the traffic consultants on that,” Sayers said. “Maybe it’s good and maybe it’ll make life better for the residential areas on Jefferson Street.”
Monday night’s forum was the last of three the city has held over the past year. The plan was generated by a steering committee and the three consultants the city hired — Cooper Planning, Sympoetica, and EPR.
The Planning Commission will meet Oct. 24 to decide whether to recommend adoption of the plan to City Council. Meanwhile, the city is investigating what federal or state grants would be available to help fund it.
The full plan is available on the city’s website at http://www.lexingtonva.gov/DTE.html