Batavia businesses seek city help with problem-plagued lot off Route 31
Batavia business owners along Route 31 are turning to city officials for help cleaning up what they describe as their own "Wild West," a stretch of parking lot and alleys plagued by drug deals and more.
Based in an area they call "the corridor," business owners spoke at this week's Batavia City Council meeting to express concern about illicit activity in and around the area behind their businesses, which are on the west side of Route 31 between 1st and Main Street.
The businesses, already tested by COVID-19 and street construction, are seeking help in retaining customers for what they hope will be a busy few months for shoppers.
Natalie Anderson, owner of Beardsgaard Barbers and River Peak Apothecary, said more problems could arise when sidewalk construction scheduled to begin in October forces customers to use the parking lot to enter businesses through back doors.
"Our parking lot is the actual Wild West," she told the city council. "Guns have been pulled on people in the parking lot. We have found constant broken bottles and glass, needles, bags of trash, blood, vomit and worse bodily fluids, actual teeth, and more and worse that I won't recount in this setting."
Anderson said graffiti has been a continual issue and workers and customers have been subjected to vile comments from people in the parking lot.
"It's bad enough in the daytime, but it gets exponentially worse once the sun goes down," she said.
Others spoke about difficulties they've encountered with patrons of a nearby bar. One resident noted how the parking lot has become a known spot to abandon cars, and a business owner talked about drug deals occurring in the lot.
City officials said they're eager to gain a better understanding of the issues and help resolve them.
"I'm glad that you're here, and we will do something," said Ward 2 Alderman Alan Wolff.
Ward 5 Alderman Abby Beck mentioned the need for a dumpster corral in the lot and joined other aldermen in thanking the business owners for bringing the issues to the city council.
"It was going to take some sort of a tipping point, and we're there," Beck said. "So now we're going to hopefully see it turn around in a really positive way."
Batavia Mayor Jeff Schielke stressed that the issues in that area have not gone unnoticed by the Batavia Police Department. He also said it's time for the city to consider reworking the liquor ordinance and bring some "new teeth" into it.
Schielke said ownership questions regarding the parking lot and nearby alleys date back decades and need to be ironed out. Ward 3 Alderman Dan Chanzit suggested the possibility of a land swap to allow the city to take control of the lot.
"The ownership in that alley is probably one of the most intensified puzzles of ownership that we have in the entire city of Batavia," Schielke said. "We'll see where we all go from here, but this is a high-priority issue on the part of the Batavia Police Department. It is not being overlooked."
Beyond settling ownership issues down the road, though, the business owners in that area are pleading for immediate help.
"We need this parking lot cleaned up, patrolled regularly, better lit and with better signage to point people there," Anderson said.