Council considers ordinance approving July 6 fireworks show

Thursday, May 16, 2019

This year's Fourth of July celebration is shaping up to be explosive.

On Monday night, the Eureka Springs City Council heard from parks director Justin Huss about a proposed fireworks show on Saturday, July 6. Huss said the fireworks would be shot off from Marble Flats, a property recently purchased by NWA Trailblazers. It's the perfect location for a fireworks show, Huss said.

"Seeing as it's one of the highest points in town and covered in rock all on the top, we thought that would be an interesting spot to shoot off fireworks," Huss said. "What that would do is allow anyone who has a deck facing any direction to see this."

Huss said the site has already been approved by fire chief Nick Samac and fire marshal Jim Kelley. Alderwoman Mickey Schneider asked why the show isn't scheduled for July 4, and Huss said it comes down to the cost of the show.

"It would be prohibitively expensive," Huss said. "Our $8,000 show would be $16,000."

Huss asked the council to approve a proposed ordinance allowing the parks department to shoot the fireworks within city limits, and alderman Bob Thomas moved to approve the proposed ordinance on its first reading. The council voted unanimously to do so. Thomas then moved to approve the proposed ordinance on its second reading by title only, and the council voted unanimously to do so.

Mayor Butch Berry said the proposed ordinance didn't need to be read all three times with an emergency clause.

"We've decided we can read it twice and hold off on one time," Berry said. "That's why we're bringing it up tonight, so we've got time to do this."

The council moved on to discuss the city's master plan, and Thomas said the vision plan adopted by council on Nov. 12, 1997, has been in effect for more than 20 years now. Thomas said the plan calls for an ongoing planning process to periodically review the city's progress toward its vision.

"To the best of my knowledge, there has never been any such annual report to the city council on progress made," Thomas said.

The failure to follow up on the plan is unfortunate for two reasons, he said. Without review and public reporting, Thomas said, citizens are led to believe the vision plan was left to gather dust on some bookshelf somewhere.

"It would be inappropriate to consider either revising or replacing the vision plan without having first assessed its usage and impact on the community," Thomas said.

At this point, he said, it would not be appropriate to ask the planning commission's four members to assess the vision plan and prepare a report on it. Thomas proposed a four-part motion, moving to request the planning commission look over the 16 proposals and policies in the vision plan and then request each of the four members of the commission and each of the six council members the responsibility to research and report on one of those items; to request that the planning commission consider options or persons to review and report on the remaining six items; to request that the planning commission set up a joint workshop for council and planning where the 10 individual reports could be presented, discussed, edited and merged into one report and to request that planning accomplish these tasks within a reasonable time frame but as quickly as possible.

Alderwoman Susan Harman said she'd prefer a simpler motion that didn't require council members to analyze the vision plan with planning commissioners.

"I would say that we would make a request to the planning commission to review the vision plan and see what has been done and what hasn't been done and then report back to city council," Harman said.

Alderwoman Mickey Schneider said there's too much information for only four people to analyze.

"It's going to be awful hard to have four people do it," Schneider said. "The 10 of us need to work together on this. This is way too much for four people."

Harman brought planning commissioner Tom Buford to the mic and asked him what he thought of Thomas' proposal. Of the four members on the planning commission, Buford said, two are relatively new.

"We have two people on it who haven't been there for six months," Buford said. "There's not a whole lot of history on the planning commission now."

Buford said the commission wouldn't have a problem looking over the vision plan and reporting back to council on its own time. Thomas said the report hasn't been analyzed in 22 years and that needs to happen sooner rather than later.

"I'm not faulting this planning commission, because they haven't been around for 22 years," Thomas said. "This is a wonderful opportunity to put it under the responsibility of the planning commission where it belongs."

The council voted and Thomas' motion failed 3-1. Harman then moved to request the planning commission come up with an initial review on the vision plan and present it to the council.

"I would appreciate somebody explaining to me the difference between her motion not being micromanaging versus my motion being micromanaging," Thomas said.

"She's letting the planning commission make the decision to come back," Berry said. "Your motion has city council being involved."

The council voted unanimously to approve Harman's motion. Also at the meeting, the council approved a proposed ordinance prohibiting animal suffering on a second reading by title only and voted to cancel its May 27 meeting because of Memorial Day.

The council's next regular meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, June 10, at The Auditorium.

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