As the Forest Park St. Patrick’s Day Parade approaches, March 8, the issue of taverns expanding their indoor space with pop-up temporary party tents on adjacent public property has once again come before the village council.
The council and the village attorney grappled with the concept for a year, with commissioners and the mayor saying private tents on public property should be regulated by village ordinance.
But the question of how to write a local law that covers all uses of public property — including block parties, 5K runs, and other uses — proved to be a tough mountain to climb. Last year, Village Attorney Nick Peppers said it would be challenging to craft an ordinance that would cover every use of public space.
Now the St. Patrick’s Day Parade is around the corner again and the village is looking at tent requests.
Last February, Piggyback Tavern asked for a nine-day use of 12 village parking spaces for a 20 x 40-foot tent that would be in place for the week from the parade, March 9, until the actual Irish holiday on March 17. O’Sullivan’s Public House requested a second tent, pitched on Marengo Avenue during the parade weekend.
Mayor Anthony Calderone said last year a tent would present an “unfair ability to increase their available space for their private gainful income and have an edge over other businesses.” He suggested creating a policy and crafting an ordinance to set parameters about when private businesses could use public space.
Council members made clear they considered tents on public streets acceptable for charity events such as the Fat Duck /Opportunity Knocks “block party” in the summer and Kevil’s Clemente High School fundraiser.
At the village council meeting on Monday, the issue came up again. O’Sullivan’s requested the tent for the parade weekend. A letter from Abigail Madden said the tent would be smaller than in the 11 previous years. She said the tent would be used for “families to have a place to congregate with their kids for lunch.” Additionally, parade marchers from Mercy Home School for Boys and Girls would use the tent as a meeting spot, and a jazz combo, the Trinity Irish dancers, and a deejay would use the tent during the weekend.
Village Administrator Tim Gillian showed council members a blank application form the village has crafted for tent requests. To pitch a tent in Forest Park would require a $100 permit fee and a $500 security deposit, Gillian said. The organization must show proof of $1 million in insurance. If police or public works needed to erect significant “Jersey” barriers, the village would charge, Gillian said.
The next village meeting is arch 10, after the St. Patrick’s Day parade.
Half-cent tax not unanimous
Village Commissioner Chris Harris made it clear he does not support a referendum item appearing on ballots, March 18, adding a .5 cent sales tax in Forest Park for an infrastructure fund. Village Administrator Tim Gillian said the tax could generate around $1 million per year which could be used to rebuild alleys. The money could also be used as a guaranteed revenue source to borrow up to $10 million for infrastructure, such as sewers. Commisioner of Streets Tom Mannix has said there are grants available from the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District to replace sewer systems if municipalities have some “skin in the game.”
Harris said scuttlebutt in the village indicated the entire council was behind a half-penny tax added to objects bought and sold in Forest Park. Harris said he wanted to make it clear he did not approve of the tax and that support from the council is not unanimous.
The date of the next village council meeting has been corrected in this story.