It is a simple approach to a complicated problem. On Monday night the Forest Park village council discussed and then approved recommendations from Village Administrator Tim Gillian and his staff on how to balance the good of residents near Madison Street with requests from restaurants and bars to expand onto “the public way” for special events.
The decision Monday has immediate ramifications with St. Pat’s parade weekend looming and two requests pending to erect tenting over public parking lots to grow the table count at Piggyback Bar-b-que and O’Sullivan’s.
In Forest Park such decisions always represent a balancing act. We are a compact town with a lively business district directly abutting housing. We’d make the argument that anyone who purchased a home within a block of Madison Street knew full well that this was a late night bargain. That said, the village and bar and restaurant owners have an implicit expectation of being good neighbors to people who generally put up with some nonsense through the course of the year.
So when, in addition to the everyday litter and carousing and the late night horn honking, the many fests and events along Madison, residents are then asked to put up occasionally with a tent raised on a public parking lot which is usually something of a buffer and sometimes a paid-for parking space for villagers, then the village must proceed cautiously.
And that, we think, is what the village did on Monday. Stepping back from a request from the council two weeks ago that the village attorney commit all scenarios into a comprehensive ordinance, a measured half-step was suggested by Gillian. All requests to use public property for a private use be accompanied by a fee paid to the village, by adequate insurance to protect the village, by guarantees that public property not be damaged, that hours of operation and live music be set, that safety precautions, possibly concrete barriers, be installed on the dime of the applicant.
With all those t’s crossed, then each application must come before the council for approval. And, we hope, sometimes for rejection.
We wonder whether specific constraints should be included on how often an individual business might make application, on the immediate proximity required between a tent and a kitchen ought to be included. But we recognize this is something of a work in progress.
Forest Park government operates, when it is working right, in a pragmatic fashion. Issues are not over studied. Common sense is brought to bear. The downside can be that insiders rule too readily. But in this instance we think a reasonable course has been set. And come St. Pat’s parade weekend we’re looking forward to some bar-be-que under the big top.