Council will refund bad permit fee, agrees to study outdoor vendors

Thursday, September 30, 2004

Two potentially volatile issues were handled carefully by the Eureka Springs City Council Monday evening in a marathon meeting.

Lita Braswell, owner of the Copacabana Club, asked for compensation after she was given a permit for a special event Labor Day weekend by a city hall employee not authorized to issue such a permit.

Business owners from Main and Spring St. demanded solutions to parking problems and the removal of out-of-town vendors who do not have businesses licenses or collect the City Advertising and Promotion Commission (CAPC) tax.

Braswell's situation came to light during the Labor Day weekend when her outside entertainment was shut down by the police because she did not qualify for an outdoor event permit with amplified music because she did not have outdoor seating.

She had hired a karaoke DJ to play music in the yard beside her building at 75 S. Main St.

Braswell had gotten a permit at city hall, similar to one she had gotten earlier in the year for her Cajun Festival.

Her discussion of the situation and how she was treated by the police during the incident on a local electronic bulletin board resulted in several dozen e-mails and letters to the council from her friends and customers.

She said Monday she wanted the council to refund the $25 permit fee and to reimburse her $400 for the DJ expenses.

City Attorney Tim Weaver said the permit fee could be refunded, but Braswell would have to sue the city for other costs. There is no provision in law for the city to pay a private individual for alleged damages without a lawsuit process.

Council members instructed Weaver to research the issue to see if reimbursement could be made.

During the open microphone portion of the meeting, Micky Schneider blasted the council for only allowing citizens to speak for three minutes when she had a 10 minute presentation ready.

Several other persons said they would yield their speaking time to Schneider.

The council would not allow her to make the entire presentation and insisted other citizens take their allotted time to present Schneider's material.

The group complained about events in the City Auditorium taking up parking places without participants paying any parking fees.

They also wanted to know how and why vendors were allowed to set up tents alongside the auditorium to sell food and t-shirts in direct competition with local merchants. The vendors do not purchase business licenses or collect the city's taxes.

Schneider went on to complain about the Sunday Market and Lucky 13 Starlight Cinema. She does not believe the cinema brings visitors to town or causes those already here to stay longer.

She also protested the Sunday Market because it is a flea market. Merchants had been invited to participate, but Schneider said it was too much trouble to take merchandise to the location, hire additional help and haul merchandise back to the store.

During discussion of Ordinance 1920, an ordinance providing a check list for city departments when a special event is planned, council members agreed to consider some of the suggestions of the merchant group and try to find solutions to the problems.

A workshop on the ordinance was set for 5:30 p.m. Monday, Oct. 4.

Appointments

Alderman Karen Lindblad could not get a second to her motion to appoint Pat Matsukis to the CAPC.

Matsukis is a former member of the Planning Commission and is considered controversial because of her outspoken opinions on city issues.

Bill Fort was approved to continue on the Hospital Commission. He is currently acting as chairman.

He had asked Mayor Kathy Harrison to be re-appointed so he might participated in the transition of the hospital to a new management company and possibly through construction of a new facility.

Mayor Harrison also nominated Betty Andrews to continue in her hospital commission post for the same reasons.

Vision project list

A resolution adopting the Vision Committee's list of projects from various vision and master plans and surveys of the city was approved.

The list includes hiring a full-time city planner; capital improvements; community facilities; regulating strip development; parking; city gateway improvement; creating a housing authority; and continuing efforts for economic development.

Alderman Bill Ott emphasized the list was a distillation of lists from several surveys, studies and plans adopted by the city.

Corley Street

Alderman Robert "Butch" Berry presented a request from Richard and Jane Johnson to have Corley St. opened so they might have access to property they wish to buy and build a house on.

The property is on a ridge and joins Laundry Spring and Little Eureka Reservation on East Mountain.

Weaver said the council would need an ordinance to "take back" the street from the custody of the Parks and Recreation Commission, then an ordinance opening the street would have to be approved.

The group instructed Weaver to go ahead and prepare an ordinance to take back the street, emphasizing this meant no guarantee of approval of the project.

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