City Council members file legislation to halt bike lanes in North Side

Jeremy M. Lazarus | 7/1/2018, 10:32 a.m.
Two City Council members want to kill City Hall plans to turn one travel lane on both sides of Brook ...

Two City Council members want to kill City Hall plans to turn one travel lane on both sides of Brook Road over to bicycles between Azalea Avenue and Charity Street.

Councilwoman Kim B. Gray, 2nd District, and Council President Chris B. Hilbert, 3rd District, who split representation of neighborhoods along the road, filed legislation Monday night that would halt installation of the proposed bike lanes.

Until now, work was to begin in 2019 to convert the street to one lane of vehicle travel in each direction. It would follow the model now in place on Franklin Street, between Belvidere and 9th streets, in Downtown.

“It’s just common sense,” Ms. Gray said about the ordinance. “There’s just too much traffic on the street.”

The legislation could come before the council as early as July 23 and would represent a significant backlash against city efforts to expand bike lanes under a plan approved in 2013.

Ms. Gray currently is fighting city plans to expand bike lanes and reduce space for vehicles on 1st and 2nd streets, particularly in Jackson Ward, based on opposition from residents of the area.

During the brief meeting Monday night, council members voted to:

• Recognize the late Clarence L. Townes Jr. and the late Percy J. Minor Sr. by placing honorary street signs on the blocks where they lived. The sign for Mr. Townes is designated for the 3100 block of Hawthorne Avenue in North Side, and the sign for Mr. Minor is to go in the 2200 block of Bainbridge Street in South Side.

Mr. Hilbert proposed the sign for Mr. Townes, a businessman and longtime force in city politics who died in 2017. Mr. Townes is being cited for his multiple roles in civic affairs, including service on the Richmond School Board and the city’s housing authority and with the public-private Richmond Renaissance, now Venture Richmond, that was created to provide a bridge between the business community and elected officials.

Mr. Minor, whom 5th District Councilman Parker C. Agelasto proposed for the honor, is being cited for efforts to improve and revitalize the Swansboro neighborhood as president of the civic association. Mr. Minor, who died in 2013, pushed the expansion of housing for retirees in the area, Mr. Agelasto stated in the legislation, and also was active in Second Baptist Church of South Richmond.

• Authorize Mayor Levar M. Stoney’s administration to spend nearly $280,000 to benefit restaurants and other businesses along Broad Street that suffered during the extended development of GRTC’s new Pulse bus rapid transit system.

The legislation allows the administration to pay for installing flowers or cleaning sidewalks and similar actions. The money also could go to help businesses set up parking validation programs or to provide valet services as a way to attract customers. Those are general ideas; officials plan to consult with affected businesses before they decide how to use the money.

The fund is an outgrowth of efforts Ms. Gray spearheaded to offer support to businesses that experienced a decline in customers during Pulse construction.

• Allow the Fire Department to shift $1.3 million in its budget to help ensure adequate staffing of its stations. Despite receiving millions of dollars to improve salaries, the department has been losing firefighters faster than it can train new people, officials have said. Sickness, retirements and other personnel issues have forced the department to increase the use of overtime to ensure adequate staffing.

• Allow ElderHomes Corp., now project:HOMES, to purchase three tax-delinquent properties in Southern Barton Heights in North Side, 1606 Sewell St. and 1611 and 1708 Monteiro St., for renovation and sale to new buyers.

City Council once again postponed action on a proposal requiring city officials to live in Richmond and also tabled action on Mayor Stoney’s proposal to demolish the landmark Intermediate Terminal Building.