RICHMOND — Members of the Town Council expressed irritation last week about several business in the Wyoming district that have not maintained their properties.
The item was added to the agenda of the Aug. 6 meeting at the request of councilor Nell Carpenter, who asked the council to consider establishing a standard for the maintenance of commercial properties.
“Currently we have absolutely no standard for commercial properties,” she said. “In order to be attractive, I believe that we need to have a standard.”
Bisected by Route 138, known locally as Main Street, Richmond’s business district has long been a source of vexation for town officials. In addition to several large, vacant commercial buildings, some existing businesses are not caring for their landscaping.
Carpenter said the neglect not only contributes to the rundown feeling of the district but will discourage new businesses from opening there. Introducing minimum maintenance standards, she said, would help attract new businesses.
“I consider this an economic development issue and a way to encourage economic growth on Main Street,” she said. “We’ve talked about this before and it was stated that’s not something we can do. It can’t be assessed or enforced without legislation.”
Carpenter cited, but did not name, several Main Street businesses that were not maintaining their landscaping or parking areas.
“A new business just recently moved onto Main Street, right off the highway and there is no standard for cutting the grass, trimming the hedges or even removing the ‘For Lease’ sign,” she said. “We have two fast food establishments here that share that market. I’ve noticed them regularly, but I wanted to drive by this afternoon to see if they cut the grass and no, they haven’t... They don’t have to, because you’re going to go there anyway.”
Carpenter described a “large commercial property” in a strip mall, where tall weeds to grow next to the road. She also noted that the rear of the property had become a dumping ground for large trash items.
“There are mattresses. There are air conditioners. I even saw a baby crib there once, full of bags of garbage. It is absolutely deplorable, and they don’t have a standard, so that’s why they do it,” she said. “They only have to re-pave and stripe half of their parking lot, leaving the rest of the lot dangerously undefined.”
Other businesses, Carpenter said, like Town Pizza, CVS, Cumberland Farms and Richmond Richmond Farms Fresh Market, care for their properties.
“They maintain their exteriors, clearly defined parking spaces, accessible parking spaces, clearly defined, maintained lawns, gardens and it is not fair for current businesses here in town to have to lure people past the lack of development, the blight and the embarrassment so they can stay afloat. I think we need to investigate our options as a town,” she said.
Town Solicitor Karen Ellsworth said there had been considerable discussion in the past of how to improve the overall experience of the business district. She agreed to look into measures the town might be able to take to require businesses to meet a certain appearance standard.
“I can start trying to figure out what we can do in terms of requiring businesses to maintain their property,” she said.
Council President Richard Nassaney suggested sending offending business owners written reminders to maintain their properties.
“We could send them a nice, friendly reminder ‘Hey, take a little pride in your town and make your property look nice,’” he said. “How hard is that?”
Carpenter said sprucing up the business district would help attract the kinds of businesses that encourage residents and tourists to linger and browse.
In this town, we need to be pretty,” she said. “We need to pretty ourselves up and become a little bit more attractive to that we can get this specialty shops in here, those cafes, those lovely little places that would give us a personality. And you’ve got to be pretty to do that.”
Nassaney said the council was committed to finding a way to resolve the issue.
“We’re going to try and find different ways to get to the same end result,” he said. “One, we have to do it legally and two, we have to do it creatively and positively so that it doesn’t become a contentious point."