Mayor's vote breaks tie; Bonner council enacts parking lot usage rules

Clausie Smith Enlarge photo

April 28, 2011

Though newly-elected Bonner Springs City Council members helped create a tie vote, the mayor broke the deadlock to pass an ordinance regulating the use of city-owned parking lots.

The ordinance requiring both individuals and organizations to acquire a permit in order to use city lots for event purposes outside of parking has been debated for several months, with downtown business Kobi’s Bar and Grill arguing the ordinance’s limits would keep it from sponsoring several annual charitable events. In three separate votes related to the ordinance, new council members Eric Freeman, Racheal Haas and Jack Knight joined council member George Cooper in voting against passage, but Mayor Clausie Smith broke the tie vote each time.

The ordinance requires anyone wanting to use a city parking lot for events outside of parking to obtain a permit, which must be approved by the council, at least two weeks in advance of the event. An applicant is limited to four permits per year, and a permit can last for up to three days.

For-profit businesses must pay a permit fee, but not-for-profit organizations or individuals organizing a not-for-profit event may fill out a form requesting the fee be waived. A for-profit business acting as a sponsor of a not-for-profit event would have that event counted as one of the four it is allowed annually.

Before any votes took place, Smith reminded the audience the council was not required to take pubic comment on the ordinance, as public comment sessions were allowed at two previous council meetings.

“We’ve discussed this and discussed this and discussed this; I don’t know what more there is to be said,” he said.

Still, several members of the public tried to make comments defending the charitable events sponsored by Kobi’s that make use of the Centennial Park parking lot.

The item was separated into three votes: the ordinance itself, a policy establishing the permit fees and a policy allowing city staff administrative approval of parking lot use for certain annual events.

Council member Jeff Harrington made the motion to approve the ordinance, seconded by Bob Reeves.

Haas questioned the need to limit permits to four annually. She said there was no limit on the number of times people could rent other public facilities, so why limit parking lot use.

Smith said the number was based on special events that businesses, Kobi’s in particular, would request use of a parking lot for in the past. Smith added that parks and recreational facilities were intended for event use, while parking lots were intended for cars.

Smith reminded the council the city was breaking its own zoning ordinances by allowing private entities to use public parking lots for events.

Cooper said he saw a conflict because businesses are sponsors of chamber of commerce events like Marble Days, but that would not count against the chamber for its four allowed events. However, charitable events sponsored by Kobi’s would count.

“It just seems odd that one group can get away with it because it’s a chamber-sponsored event,” he said. “It seems like it’s a conflict there.”

Cooper asked to amend the motion to approve the ordinance with the change that eight events per applicant be allowed annually, but Harrington and Cooper wouldn’t agree to the amendment. Council members Tom Stephens and Rodger Shannon also voted in the affirmative, leading the mayor to break the tie vote. Those votes would be repeated for the next two items.

Harrington and Reeves also made the motion to approve setting fees at $50 for a parking lot event permit or $250 if alcohol is served at the event. Cooper asked to amend the motion to set fees at $25 and $100, saying it might be more fair to businesses cosponsoring a charitable event, but Harrington and Reeves again did not agree to the amendment.

Reeves made the motion to approve allowing city staff to administratively approve permits for use of public parking lots, streets and parks for annual events like Tiblow Days, the Vaughn-Trent Christmas Parade and the high school homecoming parade.

City manager John Helin clarified that the council still would approve special-use permits for those events if they involved the sale of alcohol.

Prior to making his motions, Harrington noted that a member of the public had raised concern that there was a conflict of interest with his vote on the parking lot ordinance, but after discussing the matter with city staff and the city attorney, they felt there was no legal conflict.

After the meeting, Helin explained the concern had come in via e-mail earlier in the week, stating that Harrington may have a conflict because he is a business owner whose clients regularly use a city parking lot adjacent to his business.

In other business, the council:

• Swore in newly-elected members Freeman, Haas and Knight and re-elected members Reeves and Mayor Smith.

• Recognized outgoing members Wayne Gray, Jerry Jarrett and Lloyd Mesmer.

• Heard Smith proclaim May 1-7 as National Drinking Water Week in the city.

• Heard Smith proclaim May 1-7 as Municipal Clerk’s Week in the city.

• Heard Smith proclaim May 8-14 as National Tourism Week in the city.

• Approved 7-1 a policy allowing for rental of the city street sweeper to city residents for use on private streets, despite Helin’s recommendation not to approve the policy. Helin said it set a bad precedent in many ways, noting residents could rent a street sweeper commercially for less than the price set by the city, $170 per hour. Stephens agreed and cast the lone vote in opposition.

• Approved an agreement with Wilson & Company for $13,150 for a preliminary design engineering study for relocation of utilities related to the future reconstruction of the Interstate 70 and Kansas Highway 7 interchange.

• Approved ordinances to amend the terms for the Band Commission, Cemetery Advisory Committee and Senior Center Advisory Committee.

• Approved an ordinance to amend the ordinance that established the Bonner Beautiful Committee.

• Repealed the ordinances that established the Utility Advisory Committee.

• Approved 7-1 appointments to boards and commissions and council appointments. Council member George Cooper asked that the item be removed from the consent agenda, asking if the newly-elected council members might be placed on committees. Smith said council members were being assigned to current seats in order to complete work on ongoing issues.

• Set the time for the first retreat for the 2012 budget at 6:30 p.m. May 16 at the Bonner Springs Fire & EMS Station.

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