The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Merchants blast Oktoberfest site
BY ROBYN SIDERSKY
Several merchants with shops on Caroline Street in downtown Fredericksburg encouraged the City Council on Tuesday night to ask staff to re-examine allowing Capital Ale House to hold its annual Oktoberfest on Caroline.
The annual fall festival, in the 800 and 900 blocks of Caroline Street and the 100 and 200 blocks of George Street, has drawn thousands to downtown Fredericksburg.
But the business owners told the council that the festival-goers aren’t there for their businesses and it hurts them.
Jerry Ulman, owner of Ulman’s Jewelry on Caroline Street, started a petition asking to move the event to Sophia Street, and it’s gotten support from other downtown merchants.
Ulman presented the petition to the City Council, and about a dozen business owners joined him in asking the council to consider moving the event.
On Monday, the Economic Development Authority voted to send a letter to City Manager Beverly Cameron encouraging him to keep Oktoberfest on Caroline Street.
Former Mayor Bill Beck spoke to the council and pointed out that not one person on the City Council or EDA owns a business on Caroline Street—EDA Chairman Joe Wilson owns property there—and could not possibly understand what the festival does to their businesses that day.
John Mitchell, who owns the Made in Virginia Store on Caroline, said he made only $62 last year on the day of Oktoberfest.
He, like many others, said that his business suffers because the attendees of the festival are not able to get to the sidewalk by his shop and it takes away business.
Three council members—Kerry Devine, Bea Paolucci and Fred Howe III—asked the city manager and his staff to re-examine whether the festival could be held in another location. The council unanimously approved the motion asking the city manager to do that.
In other business, the council approved a $100,000 incentive package for Barnes & Noble, which will take the place of Borders in Central Park.
Economic Development Manager Richard Tremblay explained to the council that the incentives package that the city offered Barnes & Noble was an integral part of the book-seller’s selecting its location.
The package includes $100,000 in tax rebates over 10 years if Barnes & Noble hits performance benchmarks.
The store is expected to generate about $732,000 in new tax revenue for the city over 10 years, according to a memo from Cameron.
The council also approved a memorandum of understanding between the City Council and the Historic Fredericksburg Foundation that would help to save historic properties from being demolished.
The agreement includes $100,000 in the proposed city budget that would be used for blight abatement and historic-preservation initiatives.
The agreement calls for the parties to develop a list of preservation priorities; act early on endangered properties to avoid a crisis; and cooperate to improve and save buildings.
Robyn Sidersky: 540/374-5413