ROBINA RICH BOUFFAULT
Open email letter to Winchester City Council regarding the potential renaming of Jubal Early Drive.
I have been following the referenced matter with interest, noting the well-intentioned city online survey, which apparently received responses from both residents and non-residents alike. In City Code and policy, there also does not appear to be any single, defined method for changing street names.
We are told that the name change would only effect businesses, as there are currently no residents on Jubal Early Drive. Your tax assessments indicate that there is currently a total of 71 addresses, owned by 51 businesses, plus 3 unbuilt city properties located at 600, 701 and 705 W. Jubal Early.
Let me tell you a story: a few years ago, when I was on the board of the regional SAAA (Shenandoah Area Agency on Aging), our board felt that the name was somewhat out-of-touch with the current view of wellness for our seniors. We wanted to change it, to give the agency a “new look” so to speak, more aligned with the times. We asked staff to look into the cost of changing the name — which included all stationery, brochures, advertisements, our website, our bank accounts, the logos on our Meals on Wheels vans, etc. Staff, the following month, duly reported that it would cost in excess of $75,000. As a charity funded primarily with taxpayer dollars, we felt that spending that amount of money on a name change was not justified. It did not happen.
The Jubal Early businesses involved are not as large as the SAAA, but the cost to them of the address change could still be substantial.
There are, I believe, two main questions concerning this, and any other potential street name change:
I believe that your first survey concerning the name change should go to those who will apparently have to pay for it, i.e., the 51 businesses located on Jubal Early Drive. Some of the businesses are small ones — a cost of even $10,000 could negatively impact them.
Unless, of course, you plan on having the city pay for it, i.e., our tax dollars. But why should taxpayers pay for a purely politically motivated change done under pressure by any individual or individuals?
If the city, with a simple resolution, approves a politically motivated name change, how can they not approve the next person who comes along and wants to change, for example, Cameron Street? Or Braddock?
Such a resolution would be setting a highly questionable legal precedent. May I suggest that you obtain a formal legal opinion from not only your attorney, but a qualified, specialized independent law firm before proceeding any further.
A referendum might protect you to a certain extent. You could put it on the November ballot. Your attorneys should be able to advise you on that aspect.
Councilors, I urge caution in this matter — beware those unintended consequences. Look before you leap.
Speaking as a business person, I would not like to see Winchester labelled as a city not friendly to the business community. It would certainly cool any economic development potential for the future.