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Special-events permit ordinance is again ready for City Council’s consideration

SALISBURY — Salisbury City Councilman Brian Miller started Monday night’s committee meeting by saying his goal for the night was to get the special-events permit ordinance ready to present to the full council.

By the end of the nearly 90-minute meeting, that goal was met.

The ordinance, which lays out rules and guidelines for event organizers, has not been updated in about 30 years.

Miller and Councilman David Post worked for 10 months last year to update the ordinance, but when they submitted the proposal Oct. 3, council members voted 3-2 not to pass it because the part of the ordinance dealing with First Amendment rights had not been updated.

At Monday’s committee meeting, Miller and Post worked with staff and community members to separate the free-speech portions — dealing with demonstrations, protests and picketing — from the special-events portions of the ordinance.

At the first committee meeting of the year, held Feb. 13, committee members decided the two topics are different enough to deserve two separate ordinances.

“Because those are two different things,” Miller said at the Feb. 13 meeting. “If I’m going to hold a Halloween costume party, that’s an event. If I’m going to protest something, then that’s a First Amendment, free-speech rights event.”

The last few details committee members wanted to adjust in the ordinance included clarifying definitions, finalizing rules on alcohol and firearms, and eliminating confusing language.

Miller and Post plan to put the updated ordinance to another vote at the City Council’s April 17 meeting.

The committee also discussed the permit guide that will help city staff and events organizers work out the details of special events.

Several committee members wanted to change a few lines of language in the permit guide, but Post, Miller and city staff members decided the language would be the responsibility of city staff since it is an administrative document and not law.

At the next meeting, Miller said the committee will write a preamble for the document, specifying what the city can and cannot regulate with regard to free speech and clarifying definitions that would be used in the ordinance dealing with First Amendment rights.

The next meeting will be at 5 p.m. April 10 at the Park Avenue Community Center.

Contact reporter Jessica Coates at 704-797-4222.

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