Aldermen Find Loitering Situation 'Disturbing'

TONY STINNETT, Courier Co-Editor

The increased number of probationers standing on the sidewalks outside of local businesses in proximity to Providence Community Corrections (PCC) may lead to a new loitering law in Woodbury.

Alderman Charlie Harrell made a motion to draft a loitering ordinance outside of businesses for the Town of Woodbury. The motion was seconded by alderperson Faye Knox and gained unanimous approval of the Woodbury Mayor and Board of Aldermen during the regular November meeting at City Hall.

A committee, including Harrell, Knox and City Attorney Dale Peterson, will contact MTAS to see how effective loitering laws are in other cities and communities. The committee is charged with bringing the ordinance before the Board during its December meeting.

"It's a darn disgrace, and I am disturbed by it," Harrell said in making his motion. "I am disturbed and I would like to see us draft an ordinance against loitering on the streets outside of any business."

Mayor Patrick reminded the aldermen that Woodbury does have businesses where people sit outside legitimately so he advised them to consider that and be careful with the wording; reminding the Aldermen they can't single out businesses.

Lori Christesen, owner of Cannon Arts Dance Studio, addressed the Board concerning an abundance of problems her business has experienced due to increased number of probationers who line the sidewalks and street surrounding her business on Main Street on Wednesdays. This is the only day PCC is open and probationers do not have scheduled times, according to Chief of Police Tony Burnett, so many show up following work.

"Where these people are standing is not private property, it is public property, so our hands are tied as to what we can do," said Burnett, who has conducted meetings with PCC Director Shawn Hollis to assist in alleviating some of the problem.

"We have made contact with Mr. Hollis to address the problem," Burnett said. "They realize they have gotten more people in probation and their business has picked up. They have hired a security guard to help keep people inside and that sort of thing. We try to have a police presence there but our hands are tied as to what we can do. I think they want to fix the problem and they are trying to fix it."

Burnett said he has talked with Hollis about the potential of scheduling visits to control the traffic. Another option is adding an additional day PCC will be open; however, Christesen told the Board such a potential solution would only add to the existing problem.

Christesen has had to stop conducting classes on Wednesdays because parents of her dance students do not want to bring their children through the lines of people.

"This situation is untenable in my opinion, for small children," Christesen said. "Last year was not so bad but the number of people on probation has grown. We have streams of people that hang out on both sides of my dance studio on Wednesdays. There is vulgar language, cigarette butts being thrown down, and alcohol consumption. I now can not have any classes on Wednesdays because moms do not want to cross that group of people."

Christesen said she has lost "$200-to-$300" per week because of the situation.

"The worst thing is we are losing the image of Woodbury," Christesen said. "I think people make mistakes and I understand the Court system but this has gotten out of hand. It is not the image we want for Woodbury."

Christesen showed the Board pictures of probationers lined up on the sidewalk in front of, and alongside, Cannon Arts Dance Studio. She also showed photos of probationers "peering into the windows watching her dancers."

"I don't know what type of offenses they have next door," Christesen said. "I don't know if there are sex offenders in that group or not, but I have beautiful young girls in these classes and it makes parents very uncomfortable when you have a certain element next door to a dance studio. I don't want people glaring into the windows, which are what they are doing."

Mayor Patrick reminded Christesen and the Board they could not subjectively put PCC out of the building.

"I want to help you, and I understand where you are coming from and I understand the problem," Patrick said. "This is a private enterprise thing and they rent that building. We would hope that Providence would get a bigger location or move off of the Square, but we can't make them do that."

Patrick told the committee formed to look into the loitering ordinance to come up with wording that is "proper for the occasion."

Peterson pointed out individuals, not the business, would be charged under a loitering ordinance.

"Short of a loitering ordinance there is nothing we can do," Peterson said. "We can't interfere with private business. We want to control the problem and the problem would be the same if (Christesen) let children hang out on the sidewalk of the dance studio. It would be dangerous. I don't think we want people loitering on sidewalks."

In other business, Peterson also brought up a potential "Peddler's Ordinance. Peterson said he was contacted by an individual who wanted to run a hot dog stand on the Downtown Square on Tuesdays. The Town of Woodbury forbids peddling of any type on the Square, according to Peterson.

This would include vendors for events such as Good Ole Days or other special events. Peterson has drafted a new ordinance which allows individuals or vendors to obtain a peddler's license before setting up operation. Most charitable organizations would not have to obtain a license but they would have to go before the Mayor and Board of Aldermen to gain permission. Any special event with more than one vender (i.e. Good Ole Days), would apply for a blanket permit as opposed to each individual vendor gaining a license. The revised ordinance, which includes door-to-door solicitation, will be brought before the Mayor and Board of Aldermen during the Dec. 6 meeting.

Dotty Duggin was approved to be reappointed to the Central Tennessee Solid Waste Planning Board, and the Board of Mayor and Aldermen also unanimously turned down a proposal from AT&T regarding lowering the rent payment on their cell site located on the old water tank behind Old Manchester Road.

The Board also adopted ordinance number 441 on second and final reading. The ordinance amended Title 4 of the Woodbury Municipal Code. The Board also adopted Resolution 06-11 to establish a set of parameters by which dept obligations will be undertaken by the Town of Woodbury. The Board also approved Resolution 07-11 to exempt The Gathering Place, located in the Old Feed Store Antique Mall and operated by Mike and Deborah Vaughn, from the requirement of having a Type 1 suppression Hood System.