ST. GEORGE – A year after a permitting issue caused police to shut down a Halloween dance at the Fiesta Fun Center and drew national attention for it, the City Council was presented with a draft of proposed reforms to the city’s special event permitting process Thursday. After discussing points of the draft, the council directed staff to solidify the ordinance for presentation and voting at an upcoming council meeting.
The reforms, which have been in the works following the Monster Mash incident, are meant to give the city more room in how it processes permits, as well as clarifying when special event permits are needed.
“Mostly we tried to pare it down and still leave flexibility for the city manager and the City Council in being able to allow events and encourage events that we want to happen,” Deputy City Attorney Paula Houston said.
Last year, a permitting issue led to the Monster Mash, a Halloween dance party held at Fiesta Fun, to be shut down due to a contested permitting violation. Event promoter Jared Keddington said he had the city’s permission to hold the event – dancing including. City officials claimed otherwise, resulting in police officers showing up at the event and shutting down any potential dancing.
“It’s Footloose,” Keddington said at the time. “This is Footloose.”
City officials said the dance portion of Keddington’s event couldn’t be approved because not enough time had been allowed for the City Council to meet and review the event application.
In the wake of the Monster Mash incident, a dance protest was held on the steps of the St. George City Offices during a council meeting.
City staff began to present ideas to the City Council related to revamping the city’s special events permitting process the following December.
Special event permits currently have to be submitted 30 days in advance of the event and ultimately approved by the City Council. The permits are required for large gatherings of various types – even those held at private businesses with adequate facilities.
Applicants also have to consider the impacts their events may have on the surrounding area and provide the city with plans related to parking, security, sanitation and so forth.
Proposed revisions to the current ordinance governing special event permits would require first time applicants to put in applications at least 45 days ahead of their event.
Recurring events, such as the Lions Club’s Dixie Roundup Rodeo and George, Streetfest on Main, would not have to go through the application process as the city staff are already familiar with their events and know what to expect.
As for applications going before the City Council, that would be done away with. Events would be approved by city staff instead.
Councilman Joe Bowcutt was adamant during the meeting that he doesn’t want applicants to have to go through City Council if they don’t have to and expressed his support for the change.
Buildings and businesses already licensed and approved to host special events won’t have to apply for a special event permit unless the event goes beyond the usual scope of the approved operation.
Permits will also be required for events that require additional city resources beyond what may already be available. The same would apply to gatherings of 50 people or more on both private and city property that request additional city resources. An example of those resources would be using the city’s stage, providing additional security via police officers or barricades needed to cordon off a street.
As a part of the revised permitting process, new fees could be attached to applications based on what additional resources are requested.
“If (the event) doesn’t require additional city services, then you’re OK,” Mayor Jon Pike said.
The City Council gave verbal approval for staff to move forward with the ordinance revisions.
As far as dances are concerned, the City of St. George does not have any specific ordinances making dancing illegal.
City officials have said dance events within the city are routinely approved just like any other event provided they meet permitting requirements.
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