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News about the closing of yet another store, Centerpiece, makes it clear that the City Council should act to protect the future viability of Main Street, which is seriously undermined by the proliferation of empty storefronts that are reminiscent of ghost towns in former manufacturing centers. Unlike the desolate steel towns of the Northeast or Detroit, however, Napa Valley tourism seems to continue on an upward spiral if weekend traffic on 29 and Silverado are any indication.

Centerpiece owner Amy Rose Fasone makes a powerful point in pleading that landlords who contribute to the demise of local businesses and the image of the town should be held to account when tenants move — as so many have —because they cannot afford rent increases. A simple proposal: The landlord of any business that is required to move due to a rent increase above a specified percentage should have a specified period (60-90 days) to rent the property or be required to pay to the city an assessment/penalty or whatever term passes muster equivalent to the monthly sales and/or other taxes paid by that business for the prior two, three or five years.

Furthermore, the property of any business so forced to close should be required to be brought into compliance with existing city and county codes and policies prior to being advertised for rent beyond the specified period.

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The City Attorney should be encouraged to explore the feasibility of such a plan and whether or not it could be retroactive. Such a policy may serve to prevent the loss of businesses and subsequent assault on the character of our quintessentially American Main Street.

Tom Brown

St. Helena

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