May 10, 2022 |
Saratoga Town Council last week passed Ordinance 862 on second reading after a lengthy and sometimes contentious discussion with a few members of the public.
The ordinance amends Chapter 5.30 of town code for specially permitted events. The amendment first came up in July of last year and was discussed by town council, but later shelved for further review and consideration. 862 was added to the agenda of the May 3rd meeting and read in title only.
The amendment essentially tries to clean up the confusing and sometimes convoluted the way the existing code is organized. The only major change limits overnight camping in residential areas to eight people for three consecutive nights.
The 90-minute discussion began and ended with local concert promoter Chris Shannon asking for the ordinance to be tabled. Shannon, who never raised a specific objection to language in the amendment, only the process, said a committee should consider the ramifications of the changes.
Shannon and his business partner, Cindy Bloomquist, both said that they were unaware until recently of the ordinance. They argued that the public process had not been public enough and suggested that Councilman Jon Nelson had crafted ordinance in relative secrecy. However, an early draft of the ordinance was read at a council meeting last July. Nelson remarked it also had been discussed at several council meetings since then, as well as at planning meetings. After a lengthy back and forth, Mayor Creed James pushed back against forming a committee to develop a new ordinance.
Mayor James also responded to a question from Bloomquist about whether the town attorney had reviewed the ordinance and had approved it.
Councilman Nelson added that even a restaurant in town that features small scale music shows had weighed in on the contents of the amendment. Nelson and Councilman Ben Spaulding both said it was time to put the matter to a vote, not to delay it further committees.
Pictured above: Jalan Crossland plays at The Yard in summer 2018 during a special music event. Photo by Emma Diercks/Bigfoot 99.
One resident raised a question was raised about a portion of the code that states an event organizer might be asked to pay for any extra policing that might be needed for safety or traffic control. She expressed concerned that the requirement could pose a financial burden and limit the number of events in town. Spaulding said the purpose of the Special Event Permit was to allow certain activities to occur within town limits while at the same time protecting the safety and tranquility of the community.
Bloomquist raised a question about specific types of events, from wedding receptions to graduation parties, and how they fit into the ordinance. Councilman Ron Hutchins, who joined the meeting by phone, said the ordinance needed to be generalized.
Hutchins added that the mayor and the council need discretion to custom fit the ordinance to specific events that may present unique challenges to public safety and order.
Well over an hour into the discussion, after the ordinance had been read aloud, the ordinance passed second reading unanimously on a motion from Councilman Nelson. Even after it passed, Shannon asked for more discussion, which the mayor allowed. The additional discussion lasted at least another ten minutes with Shannon asking again for the ordinance to be tabled.
Look for more discussion at third reading of Ordinance 862 at the town council meeting on May 17.