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Salisbury committee on events ordinance looks to other cities for examples

By Amanda Raymond

amanda.raymond@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — The special committee charged with reworking the city’s proposed events ordinance and application process has found a model to use for the application form.

About 20 residents met to talk about the proposed changes to the events ordinance that was presented to the City Council late last year.

The proposed ordinance includes expanded and more detailed definitions of the types of events that can be held in the city. The proposed application form is 18 pages long and comes with new fees and deadlines.

Councilmen David Post and Brian Miller led the special committee.

The last committee meeting focused on 5K races. The group talked a lot about simplifying the documents.

Most committee members also said they are OK with the higher application fees — which jumped to $150 for some events from $25 for all events — as long as the price includes other services such as police presence, garbage and recycling bins, and barricades and cones. They also said the proposed 120-day deadline was too long.

During Wednesday’s meeting, the group did more of the technical revisions to the ordinance than the previous group started. Headings were added to certain sections, and committee members noted where language needed to be clarified and sections needed to be condensed.

On the application form, the group looked at an example from Davidson. Davidson has an online application that has places where applicants can fill out basic information such as the name of the event and the dates it will be held, as well as more specific items such as what streets need to be closed and whether extra trash receptacles will be needed.

Most committee members seemed to like the model. Police Chief Jerry Stokes said he did not like that applicants could upload a letter that would allow them to avoid filling out the application form. One member suggested adding question marks at the end of the statements that applicants could click on to get more information.

The city’s One-Stop-Shop has computer work stations, so once the online application form is created, applicants could fill it out there and get help if needed.

Miller said the city will have to develop a paper version before any type of online version, but he said Davidson’s application form is a good example to base Salisbury’s form on.

“Recognize this is a sample,” Miller told the group. “What we bring back to you will look different than this. It will not be exactly the same.”

The group then moved the discussion to the deadline requirements. A 75-day deadline was suggested at the last meeting, but Vivian Koontz, events coordinator, said city staff realized some events need to be presented to the City Council, a process that could take 30 days.

The 75-day deadline was suggested to give applicants enough time to get approval from the N.C. Department of Transportation to close a main thoroughfare, if needed.

Chief Stokes said the point of the meetings is to simplify the application form, but adding a different deadline for every case would complicate things. He said 90 days would cover most events.

Miller said the city would allow flexibility if applicants did not need that much time to organize the event, but most events in the city are annual ones that organizers know about in advance.

Sue McHugh and others expressed concern about events that are planned on the spur of the moment or because of an emergency.

“If you decide to have an event and you’re not that far out, then (the deadline is) a burden,” McHugh said. “But for something that’s ongoing, it’s not a burden.”

Stokes said those events could happen on private property, so the application would not be necessary. He said the city staff will do its best to help applicants hold their events.

“We need to have rules, and if things come up that don’t quite fit within those rules, then we can work with people to hold the event,” he said. “We’ll do that.”

Tamara Sheffield said the deadlines could be intimidating to people who do not know the city would be willing to work with them.

Elysia Demers suggested adding a sentence under the fee schedule chart to let people know they can contact the One-Stop-Shop for help.

Post said the committee could also add a sentence or two under the chart explaining that the deadline is based on DOT and City Council requirements.

The group did not have much time to talk about the application fees, but Miller said city staff will compare fees of comparable cities and give the group that information at its next meeting.

Contact reporter Amanda Raymond at 704-797-4222.

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