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Business owner wants village skatepark moved downtown



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February 29, 2012 - Usually, when a downtown Oxford business owner approaches local officials about skateboarders, it's to lodge complaints about foul language, property damage or loitering.

But that wasn't the case with Chris Werth, owner of Dubz Bikes & Boards, located at 14 N. Washington St.

He went before the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) board last week to ask officials to consider moving the village's existing skatepark located on S. Glaspie St. next door to the water treatment plant and DPW garage to a "safer location" somewhere in the downtown area.

"Oxford is fortunate to have a skatepark, where a lot of cities don't have (one)," he said. "It's in a poor location, unfortunately."

Werth said many parents are concerned about the present location because "it's not supervised" and it's "off the beaten path."

"We hear a lot of stories from the kids and parents that come in (to the store) about the bad behavior that goes on because it's out of place," he said. "We have probably over 100 parents that have signed just a piece of paper saying they would like to see the skate park moved."

Werth said the biggest advantage to moving the skatepark downtown would be parents could drop their kids off there without having to "worry about them getting into trouble," then "spend money in our stores" and "eat in our restaurants."

As for where this skatepark could be relocated to, Werth was not sure.

"I don't know what's vacant and what's available," he said.

He did suggest one potential spot.

"The perfect location would be right across the street from my store, next to Sisters Salon, that empty lot right there, right off main street. It would be an amazing spot," he said. "Somebody said there's 40,000 cars that travel up and down M-24 a day. That would be just great exposure for the city."

The vacant land to which Werth referred is currently owned by local landlord Chuck Schneider, who's been trying to develop it or sell it for years.

DDA board member Ed Hunwick asked Werth if he would be willing to help pay the cost of relocating the skatepark.

"I would be willing to help, absolutely," Werth said. "As a store owner, yes, I would contribute some money for ramps or for the rails or whatever. I would commit to that."

He also indicated he could probably get about 10 percent of the parents who signed the aforementioned informal petition to help out.

DDA Chairman Kevin Stephison had another idea for a potential funding source.

"We could ask the businesses to cough up a portion of what we pay for repairs (of damages) from skateboards, if we get a place for them to hang out. So, that's another option," he said.

Stephison suggested Werth take his idea to the DDA's Design and Economic Restructuring committees.

"These two committees, I think, are your best place to start because they can look at what's available and how it fits in with where we're going," he said.

While he was there, Werth also asked DDA officials if they would consider working to change the village ordinance language, which currently prohibits the use of skateboards in the downtown area.

"It's kind of hard to have a skateboard business when you could (get) in trouble for doing something (using a product) that we're selling," he said.

In effect since January 2005, this ordinance makes it "unlawful for any person within the city limits of the Village of Oxford to skateboard" in a public place.

The ordinance defines a public place as "places of business in the village, including all zero lot line properties, meaning any place to which the general public has access and a right of resort for business or entertainment purposes, but does not necessarily mean a place devoted solely to the uses of the public.

"It shall include the fronts, rears, and immediate areas including pedestrian and parking areas of any store, shop, restaurant, tavern, or any other place of business and also public grounds (without a designated facility), areas, parks, schools or any private properties without the expressed written permission of the owner, lessee, managing agent, or person in control or charge of the property."

The penalties for violating the ordinance include "confiscation and possible non-return" of the skateboard, fines ranging from $125 to $500 and community service ranging from 50 to 200 hours.

"It's a pretty hefty fine if skateboarders are found skateboarding in the Oxford area," Werth said.

Werth would like to see the village ordinance re-worded to allow skateboarding for transportation purposes.

"A lot of people are starting to use them for transporation, to get back and forth from school," he said.

Werth indicated his store sells longboards, a type of skateboard that's typically used for transportation or commuting.

"I live off of Drahner Road and when I work at the store, I ride back and forth on my skateboard," he noted.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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