ES council considers permanent district

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

By Samantha Jones

The Eureka Springs City Council is considering what it would mean to have a permanent entertainment district downtown.

On Monday night, the council heard from Entertainment District Committee members Kendra Hughes and Damon Henke about a proposal to establish a permanent entertainment district in town. Alderman Bob Thomas, who recently resigned from the committee, said the committee is asking for a permanent entertainment district to be set up seven days a week from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. in the downtown area.

Mayor Butch Berry said he submitted a slightly different proposal, saying he spoke with police chief Brian Young and was advised to cut the permanent entertainment district down to three days a week. Berry said he’d suggest putting a sunset clause in an ordinance establishing a permanent entertainment district, so it would have the perks of a temporary entertainment district.

Hughes said she was open to answer questions from the council and alderwoman Mickey Schneider raised her hand.

“What’s the rush?” Schneider asked.

“I don’t think there is one,” Hughes said.

“What happened to, ‘We’d like to get a wholelot of practice in until we’d even consider permanent?’ “ Schneider said.

A permanent entertainment district is established by ordinance, Hughes said, but that doesn’t mean it will exist forever. Hughes said a sunset clause would ease some of those concerns. The reason the committee isn’t asking for a temporary entertainment district is simple, Hughes said.

“To do a temporary one the size of this is logistically burdensome for whoever has to do it,” Hughes said, “and there’s not really an organization that’s best suited for that.”

Henke said the Entertainment District Committee was established by Berry to talk about what it would mean to have such districts in Eureka Springs.

“It wasn’t a matter of should we or should we not,” Henke said. “[Berry] said just take this legislation and make it make sense for Eureka Springs and we’ll go from there. There’s zero urgency at this point. We’re just coming in to say this is what you asked us to do.”

Hughes said the committee needs guidance from the council and community to know what to do next.

“We’re kind of at a standstill in committee,” Hughes said. “At some point, we need feedback from y’all so we can adjust this to whatever the community and the council need.”

Alderwoman Susan Harman said she appreciates the committee for all its hard work.

“I just appreciate they put the time to getting the information to us so we can determine whether or not it’s something the city needs,” Harman said. “We’ve had some events that have happened and they’ve been successful. We haven’t had any huge issues from the two we did have.”

Harman continued, “It’s something that’s available to the community. It’s something that was passed by the state of Arkansas to allow us to do this. Any opportunity to discuss it, I think, is great.”

Alderman Harry Meyer said he wants to know what the public has to say about it and alderwoman Melissa Greene agreed. The council doesn’t have to make any decisions until next year, Greene said.

“I think we need to move forward. It’s something we should explore,” Greene said.

Thomas moved to authorize city attorney Tim Weaver to draft an ordinance establishing a permanent entertainment district, saying it makes the most sense if the council wants to have a public meeting to address the issue.

“If you go to a public meeting with just ideas,” Thomas said, “you don’t know what you’re going to come back with. When that ordinance is written, we can sit down and decide when we want to have a public meeting and how we want it to operate.”

Meyer disagreed.

“I think there’s plenty of information from the committee here for a public meeting,” Meyer said. “This is all we need to show the public so they can give their opinion on which direction they want to go.”

The council approved the motion 4-2, with Thomas, Harman and Greene voting yes and Meyer and Schneider voting no. Berry voted yes to break the tie.

The council moved on to discuss the Norris Street property, with Berry saying the city didn’t receive any bids the last time the property was put on the market. The hospital commission has asked to take back ownership of the property, Berry said, including everything it would take to maintain and improve the building.

Schneider moved to leave the property with the hospital commission and the council voted 4-1 to approve it, with Harman voting no.

In other business, the council approved a resolution for free two-hour parking in December and deferred a proposed ordinance for animal law changes.

The council’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 25, at the Auditorium.

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