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by Daniel Schere

Committee frowns upon skateboard ban proposal

daniel@yesweekly.com | @Daniel_Schere

The debate over skateboarding in downtown Winston-Salem raged on at the city’s Public Safety Committee meeting Monday night. The committee had discussed a possible ban on skateboarding in the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter at its September 8 meeting. Innovation Quarter officials have expressed concern that the damage left by skateboarders will tarnish the area’s image and possibly lead to a decrease in outside investment.

Currently the city code states that “it shall be unlawful for any person to coast on a sled, coaster, express wagon or toy wagon, move or skate on any roller skates, skateboard or other similar device upon any public street, rightof-way, sidewalk, park or other public property located in the central business district of the city as shown on the official zoning map of the city adopted as part of the city zoning ordinance by the city council.” If the ban is adopted, it would amend the ordinance to include the Central Industrial District “” the area of downtown roughly between North Chestnut Street and US 52.

At the meeting, the committee explored the possibility of adding small metal nodules to surfaces like railings where skaters typically grind. The nodules are intended to deter skateboarders by creating a bumpy ride for them.

It would cost about $700 to install a set, with one set covering 100 feet of wall or one staircase. Councilman Jeff MacIntosh said he thinks adding the nodules could incur an unwanted cost on the Innovation Quarter and thinks it would be better for them to start a dialogue with the skateboarding community.

MacIntosh, like most of the committee members, did not think an outright ban was realistic.

“I wonder how efficient it will be for us to enact an ordinance,” he said. “How will an ordinance really keep people off the surface of the Innovation Quarter?”

Councilwoman Molly Leight was even more unwilling to ban skateboarding, suggesting the Innovation Quarter build infrastructure specifically for skateboarders to use.

“That’s what kids want, the freedom to skateboard,” she said. “And if in fact this shows that there is a way to protect certain surfaces, I think the sidewalks and whatever ought to be allowed skateboarding.”

Councilwoman Vivian Burke said accommodating the skateboarders is simply a price the Innovation Quarter must pay in order to take care of itself. She said some skateboarders are more respectful of city property than others but that a ban would not be easy to enforce.

“I don’t think our police department’s going to be in the business of doing a lot of enforcement because we have them do other things,” she said.

The city opened a temporary skate park this summer at the Fairgrounds, and City Manager Lee Garrity said plans are in the works for a permanent skate park to be built. He estimated that a site would be chosen for the park by the spring of 2015.

Wake Forest Innovation Quarter President Eric Tomlinson said that part of the motivation for wanting the ban was due to an inconsistency in the city code, which bans skateboarding west of Patterson Avenue but not east. He said he is willing to consider the option of adding the nodules despite the expense.

“That’s one of the things we’re going to explore,” he said. “In no way do we want to inhibit the sport of skateboarding. We just don’t want damage and safety issues to occur.”

Councilman Derwin Montgomery also noted an inconsistency in the city code, in that Segways may operate on sidewalks and golf carts on city streets, but not skateboards.

Montgomery was referring to a decision made earlier in the meeting to allow the operation of golf carts on city streets under the city’s “vehicles for hire,” designation, meaning the carts must be used as part of a business. It defines a golf cart as “A gas-powered or electric vehicle designed and manufactured for operation on a golf course for sporting or recreational purposes and that is not capable of exceeding speeds of 20 mph.”

Carts will only be allowed to operate in the central business district. In addition, drivers of the carts will be required to comply with all state traffic laws and would not be allowed to charge more than $3 per ride, something MacIntosh said he thinks should not be a set limit. Councilman James Taylor Jr. said he would be open to this later down the road but thinks $3 is a good starting price.

“I think it’s good to set a benchmark,” he said. “We can always adjust it.”

Once the city council approves the change to the city code, entrepreneurs Reid and Kirsten Hinsley will be able to operate their taxi service Camel City Caravans downtown at night. !

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