What constitutes a special event remains center stage in Baxter
At the request of council member John Ward in April, time was set aside Tuesday, May 17, to discuss the special event ordinance.
BAXTER — Consensus on what constitutes a special event in Baxter was at the forefront of discussion Tuesday, May 17, during a city council work session.
The council unanimously decided April 5 to deny Patrick Sundberg, owner of Jack Pine Brewery, permits for 12 events between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
With an April request by council member John Ward, time was set aside Tuesday to discuss the special event ordinance and whether the city would reevaluate its requirements for special events.
During the April meeting, council member Zach Tabatt said the city’s code did not match with the special events being discussed.
“I think what happened here was that the form that gets filled out doesn't match the code and it just kind of slipped through,” Tabatt said during the April 5 council meeting. “I'm also saying, I don't think we have the ability or authority to deny a special event based on a number, based on how I read the code.”
On Tuesday, Ward said the purpose of requesting the meeting was to see if there was anything the city could do to make the ordnance easier to understand and navigate for businesses and community members of Baxter
“So my purpose is just to have a dialogue, see if anything can happen, should happen or may not happen,” Ward said.
Adding to that sentiment was Tabatt, who saw no reason for the request as Jack Pine did not require city services.
“My personal opinion is that you want our ordinances to be as clear and easily understood by everyone as possible,” Tabatt said. “I don't want people to have to hire a lawyer to figure out what they can and can't do in the city. And, as much as possible, keep everything to that minimal, easy, fair and understandable rule system that keeps our city looking good and attractive to visitors.”
Baxter community development director Josh Doty said music is not in Baxter's zoning ordinance, making a request to play music outside eligible, to an extent, for a permit.
“Music is currently silent in the zoning ordinance,” Doty said. “And when use, named use, such as live music and outdoor entertainment is not listed in the ordinance as an allowed use, it is considered not allowed until it's added to the zoning ordinance. So the idea of music being played outside is something that certainly, if done through a special event is one thing, but if done permanently, is another.”
Saying the ordinance has worked in the past, Ward wanted a number for what the city considered to be “done permanently” as the center point of conversation as council members discussed how many events it takes to leave the realm of what is considered special.
Not getting any closer to a number other than to say that an event hosted every night is not special, council member Connie Lyscio said an event over a weekend should be considered a special event.
Covered by their initial request, which equates to 12 days, Jack Pine’s four busiest days of the year — Memorial Day weekend, Fourth of July weekend, Labor Day weekend and their fall festival weekend — were all administratively approved.
Sundberg said the additional events he requested did not look as though they required a permit based on what is defined as a special event in the city, but added the code does have conditions where the city can deny a permit and a number of events is not listed within the city ordinance.
Sundberg sent a letter to the council requesting approval for 12 special events between Memorial Day and Labor Day, seeking to utilize an area outside of his approved outdoor seating area to host concerts.
Baxter Mayor Darrel Olson said he believes the ordinance is well defined and questions whether the council's time should be spent on something that has and continues to work.
“I'm just going to be real honest with you, 40 minutes in and I'm not really sure what we've accomplished,” Olson said. “We have two different things going on, we got this special events permit and then we got this other idea of how do we allow something else to happen outside of that. … To me, special means you're using city resources. So I'm still confused, is the ordinance wrong?”
As discussion tapered toward the end of the meeting, the council remained divided on what a special event was and whether anything needed to be changed at all. In the end, staff was asked to review the ordnance.
The council directed staff to internally work with legal counsel and talk over the ordinance in the context to draft some proposed language that would then be taken before the council for review and comment, said Baxter City Administrator Brad Chapulis.
If changes are seen as acceptable, the city will go through the new process and proceed to amend the ordinance by having a public hearing.