A corn roast and concert held earlier this month by downtown business owner Jeff James has reignited the debate between those who want peace and quiet in downtown Jamestown and those who seek a more traditional urban atmosphere.
It has also reignited discussions over Jamestown's event fees, though city officials considered the James matter a done deal following a City Council Public Safety Committee meeting Monday.
James, who has operated the Fourth Street coffee shop The Labyrinth for more than a year, held a corn roast and concert at his business Aug. 1 to the ire of a neighboring restaurant owner, Gary Templin, owner of the upscale MacDuff's.
Before the event took place, Templin sought to scuttle James' plans by urging city officials to deny James' special event application, believing it to violate city zoning laws.
In a letter addressed to City Clerk James Olson that appeared on the local music Web site www.chautauquaamp.com, Templin alludes to a troubled relationship between the two Fourth Street business owners.
''In the past year, since the Labyrinth Press Company has opened, we have seen an increase in loitering and swearing as well as smoking outside the coffee shop especially in the evenings and on weekends,'' Templin states in the letter, which was very critical of The Labyrinth's younger clientele.
Templin also called into question the objectivity of City Councilman Michael Taylor, D-Ward 3 and Public Safety Committee chairman, since Taylor frequents The Labyrinth and is listed as a friend of James' on the popular networking Web site MySpace.
City Hall approved the Aug. 1 corn roast despite Templin's objections, though the concert was moved indoors. James, meanwhile, was charged a $150 event fee from the city.
Mayor Sam Teresi said Monday that seeking to collect the $150 fee is necessary so that no special event is given special treatment over another.
''This clearly is not about money here. We're talking about $150 here,'' Teresi said. ''$150 is not going to make or break a $30 million budget.''
According to James, the $150 fee is significant to him since it would be enough to make an event like the corn roast unprofitable. James also questioned why the corn roast should be considered a special event.
Though the corn was cooked on private property in front of James' business, city officials consider it to be a special event since event-goers congregated and were served corn on the sidewalk, according to Marilyn Fiore-Nieves, city attorney.
At the same time, some question whether James' corn roast should be held to the same standard as annual events that require entire streets to be closed down, especially since the main issue was the congregation on the sidewalk - a common occurrence on normal nights in other locations, like Forte and the Reg Lenna Civic Center.
Several of James' friends, patrons and supporters appeared Monday at a Public Safety Committee meeting to defend James and to find out more about his troubles with City Hall over the corn roast.
The general theme among them was that James should not be discouraged by bureaucracy and hefty event fees from holding an event that draws people downtown.
''Everyone wants Jeff to do more corn roasts and concerts,'' said Peggy Kaltenmeier, Forte owner. ''The more people who are downtown, the more it benefits everyone downtown.''
Lee Harkness, executive director of the non-profit Downtown Jamestown Development Corp. and an advocate for less-costly event fees, agreed.
''One of the things we try to do with the Urban Design Plan is bring young people here, have young people start businesses and have young people stay here,'' Harkness said. ''We need to do more of this kind of thing.''
Others spoke in favor of a downtown atmosphere that encourages activity and draws people of all ages to the city.
''I just think it's a shame when someone tries to get rid of that when we need that sort of thing so badly,'' said Kathy Abers-Kimball, one of those in attendance.
As for James, he has abandoned plans to hold another corn roast Thursday, though he plans to go on with the concert scheduled for the same day at 7 p.m. He just plans on holding it inside The Labyrinth, on private property.