Main Street– US 11– through downtown Buchanan has created challenges for years– speed, folks having trouble getting across the street because traffic won’t stop for pedestrians and congestion at times.
During the warm months over the past two years, that’s been exacerbated at times because of repairs being made to the bridges on I-81 between Exit 162 south of town and Exit 167/168 north of town.
Detours for that work have sent streams of cars and tractor-trailers through town on a number of nights, and at times during the day.
Accidents on that stretch of interstate have been culprits for years, sending traffic through town without much notice.
Town Council decided it has had enough and voted during its August meeting last week to investigate options for being sure travelers are respectful when they pass through town.
One possibility is placing cameras on Main Street to track speeding.
Council member Della Hylton, who lives on Main Street, said she believes the town needs cameras. “We need to know what people are doing… to track speeding,” she said.
The discussion included the possibility of acquiring either portable or permanent speed boards that show drivers how fast they’re going.
“Speeding, with the (I-81) detour, is unacceptable,” Council member Jamie Manspile added.
While the bridge projects are scheduled to wrap up this fall, the number of accidents on the five miles of interstate around the Buchanan exits remains consistent; although the number north of Exit 167 have dropped with the lighted chevrons in the S-curves along that section.
Manspile said the town has had some speeding enforcement, but the challenge remains.
Town Manager Mary Zirkle said she got in touch with the contractor on the bridge project, and noted with the town first learned about the interstate bridge work, town officials asked the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) officials about having a State Police presence during detours.
Zirkle said providing State Police was not written into the contract for the highway work.
She said she’s called the State Police twice for the north end of town, adding they responded fairly quickly.
She suggested residents call the State Police 800 number or the Sheriff’s Office non-emergency number to let them know what’s going on.
Urban Archery Season
Manspile told council he’d like to start a conversation in town about having an urban archery season for deer.
“We had one killed on Main Street. People are getting vehicles torn up, “ he told the rest of council.
He said six have been killed from the James River bridge to the north town limits on Main Street, and people with gardens are having trouble keeping the deer out.
“I know I’m tired of it,” he said.
According to Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) crash data, more than 10 percent of vehicle accidents in Botetourt involve deer.
One town resident in the crowd at the meeting said 49 cities and towns in Virginia have urban archery seasons to help control the deer populations, and he gave up having a garden because of them.
“So many towns have incorporated this,” he said, noting, “People aren’t going to be running up and down the street with bows.”
Mayor Larry Hall said he’ll ask Department of Game and Inland Fisheries officials to come to a council meeting to explain the urban archery program.
Council also spent some time discussing possible changes to the town ordinances that essentially prevent food vendor trucks from operating in town.
Manspile said he’s had several individuals ask him about allowing a food vendor truck to set up along the James River where people are accessing the boat landing on Lowe Street.
He said a food service truck or stand would be a benefit to people recreating on the river and to the town.
He said he understands the town ordinance prohibiting food vendors is to protect restaurants on Main Street.
Zirkle said that is the design of the ordinance, to protect businesses that have a business license, insurance, investment in a building, etc.
Council member Mike Burton said town officials should talk with the restaurant owners before considering any change, and Manspile agreed, noting he wants to “start the conversation.”
John Mays, who is co-owner of Twin River Outfitters, said the temporary closing of Brink of the James restaurant is problematic.
He said the river traffic is very seasonal, but believes someone could do very well setting up on Saturdays and Sundays.
Adding, though, “We wouldn’t want this to affect other restaurants.”
Manspile said he doesn’t believe many using the river walk up into the downtown to eat.
Joe Ryder told council he was interested in having a food truck by the river but was told the town prohibited it to protect the restaurants. “I could live with that,” he said, but noted there is a food vendor who sets up at Buchanan Flea Market.
Tim Young, co-owner of the flea market, said he believes that’s a different situation. He said the person selling BBQ at the flea market is Health Department approved. “I don’t think that has a lot to do with what’s going on downtown,” he told council. He also said one of the downtown restaurants also delivers pizza to the flea market.
Ryder said he has not problem with the flea market having a food vendor, but it’s not fair to tell him he can’t be anywhere in Buchanan with a food truck.
Manspile said he believes it will be a “win-win” for the town to change the ordinance. “Things change,” he said.
Hall ask Zirkle to poll the restaurant owners, and get their opinion, with the idea of resolving the issue before next summer’s float season.
In other business, council:
- Learned the town has been designated a Main Street Affiliate. The designation through the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) gives the town recognition through the state and provides resources in training, networking and education. The designation also allowed the town to access small-scale grants. There is no financial commitment or other obligation to the town.
- Heard a report from Zirkle that the town is one of 14 communities in the country to receive a $35,000 Small Business Portable Assistance Grant. The grant is used to help tourism communities who want to help their businesses.
- Learned from Hall that the $7.1 million water project is complete. That included construction of a new reservoir. The town also found a 1,400 gallon-a-day leak on Washington Avenue that has been repaired. The hope is with that repair, the water system will drop its water loss below 30 percent. It’s now 38 percent, nearly half of what it was before the water project began.
- Heard a report that Reggae By The River netted the Special Events Committee about $8,000. Almost 1,000 people attended the concert on the Town Park.
- Agreed to have a committee decide what Main Street American flags to buy to replace ones that are deteriorating.
- Learned the town will again apply for a VDOT grant that would be used for a walking trail at the Town Park.
- Got an update on the priority list and grant for sidewalks from the Town Park to Twin River Outfitters
- Recognized the James River High School FFA for its success at the Virginia FFA Convention, and for being ranked as one of the Top 10 FFA Chapters in America.
- Learned new “interactive” swings have been installed on the Town Park playground thanks to help from Bob Martin.
- The Special Events Committee is donating 10 new metal benches to be placed around town. They will be delivered in 8-12 weeks.
- Discussed security at the Town Park and Town Hall because of some vandalism.
- Heard a report on the school division from Superintendent of Schools John Busher.