? by J. Brooks Terry
Though a cleaner, more attractive downtown may be a popular goal for the majority of the community Jacksonville’s City Council is considering an ordinance that better outlines what businesses and property owners in the area will have to do to help make it happen.
The Jacksonville Downtown Property Maintenance Code was sponsored by Council members Elaine Brown and Jim Overton and went before the Council last month.
“It’s in the due-diligence phase right now,” said Overton. “We’ll review the ordinance before the Council to see what changes we want to make and go from there.”
“Downtown is a special place,” said Brown. “It’s really the heartbeat of the city and we want to raise the standard.”
Terry Lorince, executive director of Downtown Vision, Inc., said the code — “an ongoing effort”— evolved from a study conducted by the Historical Task Force last year.
“They looked at how we should go about maintaining the large, historical buildings in the area,” said Lorince. “That really just turned into a larger issue of how we should go about establishing better maintenance standards for the other buildings down here. All it took was someone looking at the issues and finding out how best to address them.”
Lorince added the proposed ordinance would essentially complement the Downtown Zoning Overlay Code while Overton called it “part of a series of legislation.”
Key provisions of the new maintenance ordinance include: 1) businesses will no longer be allowed to place their trash in bags on the street. Garbage will have will have to be put in a suitable receptacle before it is allowed on the sidewalk; 2) graffiti removal is the responsibility of the property owner and it must be removed within 72 hours; 3) in reference to vacant buildings, all ground floor windows must be maintained with glass or another “translucent material.” Boarding windows for more than a week is not permitted without prior approval from the Downtown Development Authority or Design Review Committee.
“One of the good things is that, in dealing with the building and property owners who are already doing a good job, they’ve been very supportive of what we’re trying to do with this ordinance,” said Lorince. “All it asks is that we become more responsible for maintaining our property.”
And Lorince doesn’t expect very much resistance as the legislation moves forward.
“We’ve had some informal conversations with a lot of business owners in the community and we’re pleased with what we’re hearing,” she said. “For something like this to work, you need people who are willing to step up to the bat.”
Overton and Brown agreed.
“It’s needed,” said Overton. “This ordinance does have ramifications for property owners downtown and I just hope that they see it as beneficial.”
“Adding something like this to the overall texture of downtown is a good thing for everyone; business owners, tourist and now the residential boom,” said Brown. “We’ve made a lot of progress to some buildings down here, but there are still a lot more of them.”