Set Main Street Free from Excess Restrictions

My letter “Set Main Street Free From Rules” got into the paper, hooray! This is a topic I feel strongly about. It was written about my city, Daytona Beach, but may apply to yours as well.

In my opinion, small business is potentially the most powerful force for urban revitalization. (Not coincidentally, it is a powerful force for sustainable households and eco-friendly neighborhoods.) We need to allow our local Mom & Pop businesses more creative leeway in their operations. This applies not just to Main Street but also to Mary McLeod Bethune Avenue and other essential downtown areas in my city that used to be vibrant, and can be again.

Of course I’m not advocating a total free-for-all. Businesses would still need to get permits, be conscientious neighbors, etc. But we need to relax some unnecessarily rigid rules that inhibit the development of a rich year-round economy that serves the needs of residents as well as visitors.

Here’s a link to the letter, which appeared in this past Sunday’s Daytona Beach News-Journal.

I’m also pasting the text below for you.

Set Daytona’s Main Street free from rules 

“City leaders have tried for decades to reinvent the Main Street corridor that runs between the Halifax River and Atlantic Ocean. They’ve tried to transform the thoroughfare into a bustling, year-round epicenter of the beachside with a mix of shops, restaurants, professional offices, second- story loft apartments, pocket parks and boutique hotels,” said a recent article about Main Street.

The problem is that the city feels compelled to insert itself as “command central” of commercial revitalization. The street already has second-story apartments. Already has ideal spaces for that bustling mix of businesses. There’s no “reinvention” needed.

We have to look into what’s impeding building owners from renting out their upstairs apartments and other spaces year-round. Are codes unnecessarily strict; is compliance unduly expensive?

One impeding factor is parking minimums.

Recently I was chatting with a city official. They said, “We’d like to get a riverfront restaurant on Main.”

There is a restaurant there! Many different people have tried to run it. Maybe the rent’s too high because they’re forced to rent the parking lot across the street in addition to the restaurant’s own parking lot. We should stop imposing parking minimums; let businesses figure that out on their own.

Small enterprise wants to happen; let it! Allow food trucks, vendor tables (not just during special events but at all times), pushcart vendors. Remove unnecessary barriers. Let everyday people make money serving everyday needs! An economy dependent on tourism and special events is fragile.