Town may limit street closures

Published 6:21 pm Tuesday, October 30, 2018

By Frederic Lee

Staff writer

The Smithfield Town Council is considering no longer allowing private groups to close Main Street for its events. 

The proposed change would not apply to town and county tourism-sponsored events, such as Olden Days and the Christmas Parade.

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“Street closures have become an increasing concern for public safety in light of incidents all across the country,” said Smithfield Director of Parks and Recreation Amy Novak in an Oct. 29 email.

The proposed change and an accompanying statement are expected to be on the Nov. 6 Town Council agenda. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

The issue was discussed at a recent Town Council Parks and Recreation Committee meeting.

In addition to public safety concerns, Smithfield 2020 spokesman Rick Bodson said that downtown merchants were not happy with car shows in particular.

“The car show participants and the attendees really don’t frequent the shops enough to make an impact,” he said. 

Bodson also said that he and other members of Smithfield 2020 polled businesses and that the results corresponded with his opinion. 

“The merchants (on Main Street) are pretty much unanimous on their assessment that this does not generate pull through revenue at all. If anything, it deters revenue because people can’t get to their front door,” said Bodson.

Novak suggested other possible venues for private events, such as the Joseph W. Luter Jr. Sports Complex.

Town Council member Randy Pack said he spoke with one car show sponsor who was willing to try another location.

“Any type of car would look really cool between the barns At Windsor Castle,” said Pack.

Novak said that cost is another factor, as groups must pay for police coverage and other expenses.

“Windsor Castle would be about just as expensive,” said Novak. The cost to rent the grounds at Windsor Castle Park runs about $2,200 for Isle of Wight residents. The cost to close Main Street can cost up to $1,000. If a group wanted to rent the area around the track at the Luter complex, that would cost about $200 and includes restrooms, said Novak. 

Novak said that if an event is held at the Luter complex, it would require a police officer to direct traffic due to the lack of a turn lane, the same as is required for sporting events. 

Managing editor Diana McFarland contributed to this report.  {/mprestriction}