Sunbury’s city leaders would be wise to give a serious look at their city code with an eye toward revisions that could benefit property owners and the downtown as a whole.

City officials earlier this month discussed reducing the minimum size limit of apartments downtown, especially on Market Street. Current city code stipulates apartments must be at least 900 square feet in the downtown corridor but 300 to 400 feet across the rest of the city based on occupancy.

That limits the number of rental units property owners can put above storefronts on Market Street.

Some property owners would like to see the minimum reduced on Market Street to match the rest of the city. The move, owners like Meghan Beck and Tammy Koonsman say, would allow them to create smaller units downtown. 

More units mean more people. More people mean more foot traffic in a struggling business district.

“We don’t have people living downtown and then supporting those businesses,” Beck said. “Usually when they live there they walk and support the downtown businesses. What happens is we could potentially have an additional 120 people living downtown and spending money. You also don’t have investors spending money downtown.”

We agree with everything Beck said.

Sunbury’s once vibrant downtown is stuck in neutral. Three of the four buildings at one of the city’s business intersections — Market and Fourth streets — are vacant. Dozens of storefronts are empty and deteriorating as time passes.

Mayor Kurt Karlovich and Councilman Chris Reis said the city should follow the International Property Maintenance Code (IPMC), a model that regulates the minimum maintenance requirements for existing buildings. That code requires 300 square feet for an individual on their own, 400 for two people.

It seems to make sense in Sunbury, where any sort of boost downtown is needed.

Sunbury officials need to be proactive here. The status quo clearly is not working. Have a real discussion with property owners, developers and investors. Talk to leaders from municipalities who have tried something similar and found success.

But standing in place is not an option. This change is reasonable. Those already invested downtown want to invest more to drive the city forward and are telling you how to start the process.

It should be an easy decision.

NOTE: Opinions expressed in The Daily Item’s editorials are the consensus of the publisher, top newsroom executives and community members of the editorial board. Today’s was written by Managing Editor Bill Bowman.

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