With the Lancaster Village Board considering a ban on skateboarding on village sidewalks, the owner of a skateboard shop in downtown Lancaster is closing his business.
Dan Prichard will shut down his Sirens Skateshop as soon as he sells out of skateboards and skater gear, saying he's fed up after months of contentious dealings with a small group of critics who don't want him or his customers in the business district.
"I fought the village for a year and now I'm done. How much do you take before you know you're not wanted?" Prichard said in an interview Friday.
The closing of Sirens has angered the teenagers who come to the village business district to do tricks on their bikes and skateboards or to hang out with their friends. They view Prichard as a friend and kindred spirit.
"We should be allowed to skateboard here," Tyler Stier, 15, a Lancaster High School sophomore, said Friday outside Sirens. "We don't have any place where we're allowed to do that. We're just trying to have fun."
The presence of the teenage bikers and skateboarders has split the merchants and residents in the business district.
Even if the village bans skateboarding on sidewalks, and even after Sirens shuts its doors, this divisive issue won't be resolved anytime soon.
"This whole thing is so far out of control. I'm afraid if we lose one business, then we're going to lose another one and another one and the whole village is going to suffer," said Kieran Gallagher, owner of Petals to Please & More flower shop.
Teens come to the area to ride skateboards and BMX bikes because it's centrally located and has plenty of parking lots, metal railings and concrete steps and planters for their tricks.
Some business owners have complained to village officials and police about teens flying around on bikes and boards, blocking the paths of pedestrians and damaging property.
"I just don't see any hope in the future for this deteriorating village," Tracy Diegelman, who owns the Bloomsbury Lane Toy Shoppe at 1 W. Main St. with her husband, Mike, said Aug. 27 to the Village Board.
Diegelman and her business became a target following that meeting, but about half a dozen merchants complained at Monday's board meeting and prompted discussion of a ban.
The Village Board still must hold a public hearing before voting on the proposed law, but Prichard made his decision to close Sirens after reading news coverage of the meeting.
He opened Sirens in August 2011 and it became a destination for skateboarders and bikers. Prichard said he tried to keep them out of trouble and encouraged their interest in the sport.
Prichard said that by closing, he's making a statement that will rally opposition to the ban. He said he won't reopen elsewhere.
Friday afternoon, a group of about 20 teens stood outside the toy shop in protest for about five or 10 minutes before a Lancaster police officer told them to break up the gathering.
"The football players have their fields. The soccer players have their fields. The dancers have their stages. The riders need their streets, and they're taking them away from them," said Gretta Geisen, 15, a Lancaster High School student who was there to support her friends who ride.
Mike Diegelman declined to comment on the attention directed at his store but said his and his wife's concerns are driven by a fear that someone could get hurt.
A group of community leaders is working to build a bike and skateboard park in the village, but a resolution remains elusive.