Sebastian leaders to address park usage rules, rental fees

SEBASTIAN — With a request from a religious group to use Riverview Park over the Memorial Day weekend and two other clubs asking to rent the park at a discounted rate, Sebastian city leaders have directed staff to review the city’s rules and regulations for use of the city’s parks.

“Things are coming up hot and heavy,” Councilwoman Andrea Coy said of different events being planned for the park, such as flea markets and car shows.

The Sebastian River Art Club and the Craft Club of Sebastian both asked the city council to approve their schedule of shows at Riverview Park for the upcoming season and asked that the city waive 50 percent of the applicable fees.

Supervisor of Parks Chris McCarthy said after the meeting that the fees would be $50 per show – at a 50 percent discount, both groups would pay $25 per show if approved.

The clubs have received the discount from the city over the last few years, McCarthy said.

“They do a lot of good for the community,” he said.

In its request to the city, Craft Club President Karen Lampiasi said the club is willing to contribute $500 for upgrades to Riverview Park.

Between the two groups, they plan to hold 14 or 15 shows, which could generate as much as $750 in fees to the city – half that, if approved, would be $375.

Coy said that while she supports both of the well-established organizations, she cautioned that what the city does for one it must do for others.

She said she would rather see the city partner with the Sebastian River Art Club and the Craft Club of Sebastian.

Coy also called on the city’s staff to review the current resolution pertaining to park usage and make suggestions for improving it.

Vice Mayor Jim Hill said that he would support the two clubs’ requests without requiring changes to the city’s resolution.

“There’s a reason they have to come before council,” Hill said of groups requesting special treatment and noted that other organizations do not rent the park 15 times annually.

“We have the ability to make these decisions,” he said.

Coy told her fellow council members that she has had lengthy discussions with City Attorney Robert Ginsburg about fair treatment of private groups, especially in light of a religious group wanting to rent the park for a Christian rock concert over Memorial Day.

That organization’s request for park use came back before the council after initially failing to receive approval in a tied vote last month. According to the city’s charter, tied votes mean no action is taken.

Ginsburg placed Reclaimed Ministries back on the agenda for another vote, which was approved 3-1. Councilman Don Wright was absent from the meeting.

Coy voted against the group’s request, saying she wanted the resolution reworked first.

“We need to tighten this up,” Coy said of the resolution.

Ginsburg said that it would be OK for the city to postpone a decision on the Sebastian River Art Club and Craft Club of Sebastian’s requests until after the resolution has been addressed because their first events are not until October.

However, he could not recommend holding off on deciding Reclaimed Ministries’ request because the group’s event is planned for May 29 – just three days after the next council meeting.

The council is expected to discuss tweaking the city’s park usage rules and fees at that meeting, scheduled for May 26. After that meeting, the council is expected to take up the two clubs’ requests for discounted fees.

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