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Charlottesville committee backs changes to honorary street naming policy

A Charlottesville committee is recommending several changes to the city’s honorary street naming process.

The Historic Resources Committee discussed the policy during a virtual meeting on Friday.

The committee’s recommendations focused on flexibility in decision-making and improving clarity within the process.

Honorary street names do not change the name of the street. Rather, brown signs with the honorary designation are placed near signs with the actual street name.

In August, the City Council voted to suspend its policy and accept proposals for new names through the end of the month.

At the time, councilors had been considering an honorary street name downtown to recognize the Black Lives Matter movement.

Afterward, the city received 13 applications. Two of those were approved and the 11 remaining were sent to the committee, along with the policy, in September.

The committee recommended that the designations have the option of being permanent or temporary. On temporary namings, the committee said a sunset period should be standardized and all the names should be reviewed annually.

Other recommendations included encouragement of a wide range of honorees, direct questions about the namesake, more public information on the names and process and flexibility in the physical length of the designation.

Committee members said the current application isn’t clear and can lead to incomplete submittals.

“I don’t look to the person who is applying to complete that correctly,” said committee member Phil Varner.

The committee supported the process occurring once a year, but didn’t decide on any specific time frames.

“If council had to have this on the agenda every month, that would be problematic,” Varner said.

The recommendations came with the concern from some committee members about whether the process was appropriate in the first place.

“It’s evolved to the point where I don’t know what the purpose is and who is benefitting from it,” said committee member Dede Smith. “You don’t have any information about who these people are.”

Committee members Jalane Schmidt and Alissa Diamond didn’t support mandatory expiration of the designations while some actual street names don’t get changed.

The committee said the applications should provide information about the connection of the proposed namesake to the section of road under consideration.

Varner recommended prioritization of city residents, but other committee members said some people with deep ties to the community may no longer be able to afford to live in the city.

“I would hate to sit in a meeting nitpicking if the nominator was qualified or not,” said committee member Genevieve Keller. “We’re trying to be more open, more transparent.”

The committee plans to formally vote on recommendations and review the outstanding applications at its December meeting.


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