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New fees and deadlines included in proposed changes to special event ordinances

By Amanda Raymond
amanda.raymond@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — The special event section of the city code may be changed to expand definitions and establish new fees and deadlines for event permits.

Salisbury Police Chief Jerry Stokes went over the changes at the City Council meeting on Tuesday.

The proposed changes include detailed definitions of demonstrations, picket line or picketing, community events, general events, neighborhood events, organized activities, parades, festivals and special events.

“We don’t want to confuse our special events with demonstrations or … picket lines or First Amendment rights exercises, and we want to make sure to allow citizens to exercise their First Amendment rights,” Stokes said.

In the proposed definitions section, demonstrations, picket lines or picketing are defined as “the non-commercial expression protected by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, such as picketing, marches, speechmaking, vigils, walks, etc. conducted in public areas or parks. The conduct of the expression has the effect, intent or propensity to attract a group of on-lookers …”

General events are defined as “organized activities that have a stationary footprint not requiring temporary right-of-way closure often involving sound amplification, food, beverage, merchandise or other forms of entertainment …”

Stokes suggested giving the council the power to designate events, other than demonstrations, as city-sponsored events.

“We really want to allow these organizers to have events in the city, but we want to do a bit more of ‘pay to play,’” he said, as well as giving city staff more time to process the permits and set up what is needed for the event.

“We need to recoup some expense for these city services that are being used,” Stokes said.

There is a proposed application fee schedule for different events, with deadlines spanning from 30 days to 120 days and the highest fee set at $250. There are also late fees for applications submitted after the deadline.

The application fee is $25 in the current ordinance.

Stokes said he drew from the special event permitting processes of Raleigh and Charlottesville, Va.

Along with the fees is a new 18-page application, which includes the definitions and fee schedule. Stokes said he hopes the application will give city staff a better idea of what organizers need for their event. Depending on what the organizer needs, additional fees could include sanitation, fire department, police department and streets department fees.

There are no application or late application fees for demonstrations or pickets, but an application has to be submitted 30 days before the event.

“I genuinely appreciate the zero fee for demonstrations because as Americans we have the right to demonstrate and I appreciate you recognizing that,” Mayor Pro Tem Maggie Blackwell said. “It does occur to me that demonstrations are often times held in response to an event, and I personally feel that a 30-day lead time is impractical.”

Blackwell said she understands the need for planning and safety, but the deadline may impede the timeliness of the demonstration.

“I think timeliness is the key issue for a demonstration,” she said.

Councilman David Post said he noticed the same thing.

“The demonstration issue is something that you often can’t plan for,” he said.

Blackwell also mentioned that neighborhoods may ask for a temporary right-of-way closure instead of a block closure for events like block parties because it’s cheaper.

Councilman Brian Miller asked that the city staff be patient with applicants having to deal with new applications and fees.

“Let’s make sure we’re good customer servants,” he said.

Stokes said staff from the city’s One Stop Shop will guide applicants through the application, if needed.

Mayor Karen Alexander said there may need to be some type of damage deposit added to the application.

Post asked if the council should have the authority to waive fees for certain events.

“I don’t want to have that vote,” he said. “I’m not scared of voting, I just don’t want to play favorites.”

Stokes said he meant the fee waivers to be for traditional events that happen every year and promote community vibrancy or history.

“The danger is though that all of those historical things that we’ve done will all, to some constituency, be vital and to the best interest of the city, so there probably needs to be some sort of guideline,” Miller said.

The rest of the council agreed.

A public hearing for the proposed changes will be held at the City Council meeting on Nov. 15.

The documents will be posted on the city’s website, www.salisburync.gov, before the meeting.

Contact reporter Amanda Raymond at 704-797-4222.

Proposed application fee schedule

Event type Deadline Application Fee Late Fee
Parade 120 days $150 $100
Race/walk 5K or less 120 days $150 $100
Race/walk over 5k 120 days $250 $100
Special event 120 days $150 $100
General event 120 days $150 $100
Neighborhood event 60 days $50 $25
Demonstration or picket 30 days $0 $0
Public street festival 120 days $125 $100
Right-of-way closure (for events other than listed above) 60 days $25 $100

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