Chelsea City Council unanimously approves new ordinance to regulate private use of public space
Earlier this year, Chelsea Council Member Rod Anderson pushed the City Council to adopt an ordinance which ensures that all groups in the city are treated equally when it comes to the use of city-owned or leased public space.
This week, he got his wish when the City Council unanimously approved a new ordinance, which does just that.
Anderson was approached by a church group about this issue when it was not allowed to hold a living nativity scene on city-owned property during an annual holiday festival in Chelsea last year.
In previous years, the group held a living nativity event as part of the festival in a number of different locations downtown - including on city-owned land at the corner of Orchard Street and Main Street.
During the past several years, the living nativity event took place on the Palmer Ford parking lot on Main Street, which was privately owned at the time. Since then, the parking lot has been leased to the city and that’s when the group was asked to move the event.
“The city would like to provide the local community an opportunity to hold private events on public property by regulating the use of public parking lots, streets, right-of-way, and parks in order that they may be reasonably accessed and enjoyed by the general public, and not be usurped by commercial or special interest groups to the exclusion of the public,” Chelsea City Manager John Hanifan said in an explanation of the new ordinance.
He also reminded City Council that the city must “preserve the health, safety and welfare of the public, remaining consistent with the Michigan Constitution, Michigan law, City of Chelsea Charter, and other city ordinances so as to assure the enjoyment of the public at large, all without undue financial costs to the City of Chelsea or its residents.”
Among other things, the new ordinance defines special events as “non-city sponsored events, included by not limited to an athletic event, festival, show, celebration, performance, display, seasonal event, gathering, video or film production,” and allows them in all zoning districts in the city.
“I find it sufficiently open-ended to accommodate events,” said Council Member Cheri Albertson.
The proposed ordinance excludes block parties or other right-of-way closures already covered by city police policies, and exempts the temporary daytime use of picnic tables and park gazebo for events for less than 50 people.
Hanifan said the city was not trying to regulate events such as family reunions or Boy Scout picnics or schools groups, rather provide regulations on formalized groups.
Applicants will have to fill out an application form that includes requested information such as the date and name of the organization as well as the purpose of the event and estimated number of people expected to attend. Applicants will also need to provide a sketch of the limits of the area that’s requested for use.
The City Council will then be asked to decide on granting a permit for the event, and if deemed necessary by the city manager, a certificate of insurance may be required. In addition, there may be a fee if city services are required.