Meg Hibbert Contributing writer
After studying the ins and outs of rental “shared mobility systems,” Salem City Council on Jan. 24 unanimously approved a pilot project for Lime scooters that will likely start in the spring.
The ordinance approved on first reading amends the city code regarding “Dockless Mobility Operations.”
Council discussed what was necessary to have scooters at the first meeting in January.
Salem City Attorney Jim Guynn explained the state previously mandated all Virginia localities must allow scooters. He added if the pilot project goes well, the city will expand the program.
Scooters will be for rent in a roughly triangular area from Main Street to Fourth to Thompson Memorial Drive. Scooters would be programmed to cut off when they reach the boundaries, Councilmembers learned.
Guynn said if scooters are not parked in designated corrals, they will be confiscated by city employees and stored. The Lime company will be responsible for paying a storage fee.
In other matters, Council:
- Discussed future marijuana retail sales in the work session preceding the regular meeting. Specifics are still being worked out in the Virginia General Assembly, Salem Zoning Administrator Mary Ellen Wines said. Retail sales of marijuana products would be strictly governed under state law, so that stores would be similar to Alcoholic Beverage Control stores, she said. Only 400 licenses would be granted in the state, Wines added, so it is unlikely that Salem would get more than one store.
- Marijuana stores could not be located within 300 feet of a church, school or day care center, and there could be no signs or neons with images of marijuana.
Council held public hearings and unanimously approved, on first reading, zoning ordinance changes that included:
- Rezoning property of Scott A. Boggs at 407 E. Burwell St. from Residential Business District to Transitional Business District, in order to allow a 20-square-foot sign instead of the current six-square-foot sign advertising a fly fishing business at that location;
- Rezoning 630 Union St. from Heavy Manufacturing to Highway Business District, to construct Union Plaza, two commercial buildings. The vacant property has been filled and raised more than six-feet above street level to prevent flooding. Community Development Director Chuck VanAllman said two commercial buildings are planned;
Council denied a special exemption permit requested by Sunshine Spa to allow a massage parlor at 2936 W. Main St. VanAllman explained the business was operating as an acupuncture facility, but when a special city investigator went in, they found that the business was providing full-body massages and some illegal activities. Salem Planning Commission had recommended denial of the permit.
Council also postponed decisions and public hearings on two amendments to city code pertaining to review of subdivision site plans and plats and site plan review. The items will be taken up on Feb. 28.
During the Citizen Comments portion at the beginning of the regular session, two citizens spoke. Cynthia Munley asked for more citizen input in city decisions. Her seven-year-old granddaughter, Tessa Warner, asked Council to encourage the planting of more trees.
All five Council members were present at the hour-long Jan. 24 meeting, which adjourned at 7:30 p.m.
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