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City to hold public hearing on partial closure of Cates Street

Changes might be coming to Cates Street that could make it a safer place – and a generally better one, city officials say.
In the interest of safety and convenience, the street could be receiving something of a facelift. The side to the immediate west of Legion Field – which includes the only houses on the street – would remain open as a two-way street. The side to the east of the field would be converted to additional field parking.
“There’s not very much traffic on the east end of the street,” said Parks Board President Mark Sowder. “If you live on the west end, it’s advantageous to you because the only traffic is you. I can’t think of any way, and neither could [Richmond Police Chief] Terri [McWilliams], that would be an inconvenience.”
The modifications to Cates Street depend on what citizens might say at an open forum held immediately prior to the June 30 City Council meeting at 6:30. Additionally, Richmond Police Chief Terri McWilliams said Cates Street is a one-way street by way of a 1986 “clean-up” ordinance, as McWilliams called it, though traffic still flows in both directions.
McWilliams said repealing the ordinance has to go through both a city council ordinance committee and the public safety committee before plans could move forward. She said the ordinance is the type that has just gotten lost in the shuffle over time and might be out of touch with present concerns.
“As people develop things and build things, they don’t think about these all the time,” McWilliams said. “I don’t know if 23 years ago they had organized ballgames there.
“I fear for the safety of the kids. Bless their hearts, they run across the street, thinking about the ballgame, and they’re not thinking about traffic.”
Though nobody anticipates any opposition to the alterations at this point, McWilliams said anything could possibly come up at the open forum.
“(Cates Street residents) are the ones who live with (traffic) day in and day out,” McWilliams said.
There are safety concerns at work, McWilliams said. There’s also the advantages to neighbors of reducing game day traffic, Sowder said. But there’s also an aspect of practicality.
The Parks Board plans to construct a new concession stand and bathroom facilities across the street at Maurice Roberts Park. Sowder explained the only other available space to build upon is the southeast corner of Roberts Park, which has been deemed too swampy to build upon.
If plans go through, the stretch of road passing between the field and the park would cease to be legally defined as a street, thus freeing the city from having to build the new facilities 50 feet further back from the road – and the field, Sowder said.

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