SEBASTIAN – The Sebastian City Council, in a split vote, decided to ask its Parks and Recreation Advisory Board to review a proposed resolution pertaining to public usage of the city’s parks. The council also decided to move forward with increasing the permit fees associated with using the park.
Vice Mayor Jim Hill voted against sending the resolution to the advisory board, saying that there is no need to “fix something that’s not necessarily broke.”
Mayor Richard Gillmor agreed and also voted against the measure.
Councilman Don Wright, who agreed that the new resolution does not change much the existing rules and guidelines, said it would not hurt to get the committee’s input and draw out more public input in the process.
The issue of public events and special usage of the city’s parks, particularly Riverview Park, came up most recently during a discussion about a Christian group wanting to rent the park on May 29 to have a Christian rock concert.
While the council eventually approved the group’s request, the council directed to staff to review the city’s policies regarding usage.
Councilwoman Andrea Coy said Wednesday night that she wanted to be clear – that the discussion about park usage has nothing to do with discriminating against any group, religious or otherwise.
“We have to be fair,” she said, explaining that what the city does for one group, it must do for all groups.
She asked that the proposed resolution go before the Parks and Recreation Advisory Board, which meets again in late June, for the committee’s input on the matter.
Along with updating the current resolution, Coy asked that the board also consider weighing in on issues pertaining to commercial uses of the parks – like flea markets, farmers markets, and car and boat shows. Coy said there has been increased interest from numerous groups that want to use the park and the city needs to address those requests and set guidelines.
“I think it’s very clear and spelled out,” Mayor Gillmor said of the new resolution’s take on park uses, adding that he would not support sending the resolution to the committee. “Let’s not make this too difficult.”
Pastor Seth Goldsmith, of Coastal Community Church, spoke in general support of the proposed resolution, agreeing with the proposed increase to the permit fees. He cautioned the council not too make it too restrictive to hold events at the parks.
Coastal Community Church has held five events at Riverview Park, the most recent being Family Fun Night.
Goldsmith said that his church has paid the full permit fees and has never asked for discounts or special treatment.
“We want to invest in the city because we love it,” he said.
City Attorney Robert Ginsburg told the council during discussion that the city is not allowed to decide whether an event can take place based on that event’s content. The only ways the city can make the decision are: “time, place and manner” – if the time, place and the manner in which the event would be held would not negatively affect the surrounding community.
To illustrate the point, Coy asked Ginsburg if a Skinheads organization were to file for a permit to use Riverview Park for an event and the group met all the city’s rules, if the city would be able to turn down the Skinheads’ application.
“No,” Ginsburg replied.
Coy requested that the advisory board review the city’s facilities and help determine what types of events could be held where. She suggested that maybe city-sponsored events only would be allowed to use the main portion of Riverview Park when the entire park is being used. Boat or car shows or other commercial events could use the grassy area between Indian River Drive and the water adjacent to Riverview Park.
Louise Kautenburg told the council that whatever rules it decides to approve, those rules should apply to everyone.
“Otherwise, you’re sitting in the middle of train tracks and not hearing the train coming,” she said of potential problems that could arise from special treatment.
“Protect the public asset,” Kautenburg added. “That’s why you’re here.”
Park Usage Permit Fees to Increase
The following table, provided by the City of Sebastian, has been edited to reflect changes to only the residential fee and does not include the changes to the required deposit amounts.
Facility/Use Current Fee Proposed Fee
Community Center – 4 hours
Park Event – full park
Park Event – pavilion only