Committee discusses simplifying events ordinance

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 20, 2017

By Amanda Raymond

SALISBURY – Simplification and education are what’s needed in proposed changes to the city’s special events ordinance and application process, members of a committee studying the issue said Wednesday.

City Council members David Post and Brian Miller met with four other residents to discuss the proposed changes. Also at the meeting were Police Chief Jerry Stokes, Fire Chief Bob Parnell, Parks and Recreation Director Nick Aceves, Special Events Coordinator Vivian Koontz, Public Services Director Tony Cinquemani and Planning and Development Services Manager Janet Gapen.

The ordinance and application were presented to the City Council late last year. The ordinance includes expanded and more detailed definitions of demonstrations, picket lines, community events, general events, neighborhood events, organized activities, parades, festivals and other special events.

The proposed application is 18 pages long and comes with new fees and deadlines. The current application fee for all events is $25. The new fees would be $150 for most events. The deadlines span from 30 days to 120 days for different types of events.

Post went through the ordinance section by section and asked for comment. The committee agreed to correct some problems with wording.

One of the bigger issues that Brian Miller found was a part of the ordinance that would allow events to be designated as community events by the City Council, giving the organizer or sponsor special permission to hold the event.

“All that does is encourage people to go around this process to the council every time,” he said.

Miller said the council would not want to appear to show favoritism by deeming some events as community events and not others.

Miller also suggested adding headings and subheadings for more clarity and to make it easier for readers to find certain sections.

Nick Aceves suggested adding a section to define nonprofit groups and what proof of that status may be necessary on the application.

Miller then moved the discussion to the proposed new application.

Committee members discussed proposed deadlines and said that 75 days may be a better deadline than 120 days. Most said they would be fine with the more expensive application fees as long as other services, such as police presence, garbage and recycling bins, and barricades and cones, are included in the price instead of added separately.

Tamara Sheffield said if she were filling out an application, she would want an easy way to find out which parts apply to her specific event.

Mollie Ruff agreed, saying she has experience planning events but was intimidated by the new application form.

“I’ve done a lot of events in Salisbury, and I saw this and my heart started racing and I was freaking out,” she said. “So I can’t imagine someone who’s new (seeing) this.”

The proposed application has one checklist in the beginning that includes things such as the application fee, sanitation and waste fee, and an ABC license.

Ruff suggested creating multiple checklists to help applicants depending on the specific event. Post said a matrix similar to the one used for zoning applications could show people what they need for certain events.

For the fees and deadlines, Post suggested adding explanations of why the specific amounts were set.

“Help it out so we don’t have to explain it every time,” he said.

The group also discussed charging higher fees for out-of-county residents and for-profit businesses.

Miller and Post said the committee had made progress on shaping the new ordinance and application form.

“I like the way everybody came together and said, ‘Let’s fix this thing,’” Post said.

Contact reporter Amanda Raymond at 704-797-4222.