The Farmington City Council and Farmington Regional Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors came together on Friday for a special council session.
The lone item on the agenda was a discussion item – noting the council would meet with the Farmington Regional Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors regarding liquor permits not being issued at Long Park.
During the July 23 Farmington City Council meeting, a first reading was held on bill number 30012018, amending the municipal code of Title XI: Ordinance violations, Chapter 210: Offenses concerning drugs and alcohol.
The amended draft ordinance would repeal a section of the municipal code relating to the prohibiting of drinking in public places. The draft ordinance states “it shall be unlawful for any person to consume intoxicating liquor, wine, beer or non-intoxicating been in the streets, alley, parks or any other public place in this city, except when a permit for a picnic license or caterer’s license has been issued by the city.”
The draft ordinance goes on to state the consumption of such items in Long Park “shall not be permitted at any time and the City shall not issue permits for a picnic license or caterer’s license that would allow for the consumption of intoxicating liquor, wine, beer or non-intoxicating beer in Long Park.”
Mayor Larry Forsythe, who was not in attendance at the July 23 meeting, told those gathered on Friday that his reason for drafting the ordinance was not a reflection on the chamber.
“I’m not here to fight against the chamber,” he said. “The alcohol sales in Long Park is the reason I brought this up.”
He stated his “no” votes to allowing alcohol sales in city park facilities goes back to his time on council in previous administrations.
Phil Brockland, chairman of the chamber board of directors, was the first to address the council. He noted the partnership with the city during the 40 years of Country Days.
“The success of Country Days, including the beer garden, directly affects the availability and quality of services, programs and community events that we provide throughout the year to the businesses and assistance to our community,” he said. “The revenues generated during the festival are reinvested directly into our community by a variety of ways, including direct support and promotion of initiatives throughout our community.”
Brockland said the chamber representatives were asking a delay for a second vote and council action on the ordinance, which would ban the sale of liquor in Long Park.
A first reading on the matter was held on July 23, with the second reading set to take place on Aug. 9.
Brockland said chamber staff would not be available to attend the meeting due to previous commitments. He also asked for the extension to allow council members to further study the ordinance.
“We do appreciate your cooperation today,” he said.
Forsythe told those in attendance he expressed to former chamber leadership of his wish to discontinue alcohol sales in Long Park after he was elected mayor – noting he was not sure if the board was aware of those discussions.
But, Forsythe said, his decision to have the ordinance drafted is due to his conversations with citizens – who, according to him, contacted the city to complain about the liquor sales since the beer garden is located in the park.
“To be honest with you, everybody I talk to is against it also, the public – that’s who we serve,” he said. “You serve the people that make money, we serve the people that give you money.”
Farmington City Administrator Greg Beavers explained the current ordinance reads the parks and recreation director is the one who makes the decision to sign the license to allow alcohol sales in the parks – meaning no ordinance is required to ban the sale since the final decision on that matter rests with the mayor.
When it comes to issuing liquor licenses for special events at city-owned property, the final decision comes down to the mayor.
And, throughout the meeting, Forsythe expressed he does not intend for the chamber to not have a beer garden – instead, his request is for the chamber to find another location.
Farmington Regional Chamber Co-Director Laura Raymer said changes on anything related to the event could have repercussion on revenue, noting that was a reason the chamber asked for a postponement to give more time to “examine our positions and what we feel like we can or can not accomplish moving forward – which is the right thing to do as a business that is responsible for 400 other businesses.”
Beavers noted the investment made by the city in Country Days is approximately $11,000 in direct labor and expense, not including ancillary cost such as electricity.
“You don’t have a bigger partner than the city of Farmington for Country Days,” he said.
Discussion was held as to what were the final numbers for beer garden sales, with Raymer noting totals are sometimes not finalized until the first of September – noting she was still waiting on the beer bill.
“As a long term member, I expect the chamber to be managed financially well, and timely financial information is one of those indicators,” Ward 2 Councilman Crouch said.
David Buerck, former chamber president and longtime volunteer, said those who work the garden go through extensive training to ensure the area does not affect the event. Raymer said the current positioning is also to ensure it is not near children’s areas.
In the 45-minute meeting, possible locations were presented. Raymer said a postponement in a vote on the ordinance would allow for time to find another suitable location and they would have to look at their options moving forward.
Forsythe noted the main question on the table was not about the event – but, the question is if the city should allow a beer garden “on public grounds, in the middle of town, at a public park.”
“I just do not like the liquor sold in Long Park, period,” he said, because of the park’s location. He noted he would not have a problem with a beer garden in Engler Park if the event was ever moved to that location.
Ward I Councilman John Robinson said he wanted the chamber representatives to know the council supports their work.
“We don’t want you guys to lose any revenue whatsoever,” he said. “But I happened to be in complete agreement, for one … I agree with the mayor that I don’t think (alcohol) needs to be served on city property.”
He asked Raymer if the chamber had an opportunity to explore other possible locations.
Raymer said their request to meet was to get an opportunity to find out what the concerns were regarding the beer garden location – and, after that discussion, to formulate possible ideas going forward.
“And, that we can respond appropriately and figure out where we go from here,” she said. “Whether it’s with or without the beer garden or with or without the event. There’s a lot of things we have to take a look at as well, too. That’s why we’re asking for a postponement – to give us time to do that.
“It’s just a business trying to do what’s best for its business. We realize it’s not personal – absolutely. But, we need time to be able to formulate that plan as well … we want to be good stewards and represent the city in the best manner possible. We definitely look at this as an ambassadorship to bring people to the city … we take this very seriously. It’s not the matter of the chamber wanting a bunch of money.”
There was no vote or legislation on the agenda for the special session, so no motion could be made to delay a vote on the ordinance.
Shawnna Robinson is the managing editor of the Farmington Press and can be reached at 573-518-3628 or email@example.com