Permanent entertainment district: Council asks attorney to write ordinance with sunset clause
By Samantha Jones
The Eureka Springs City Council is still considering what it would mean to establish a permanent entertainment district downtown.
On Monday night, Mayor Butch Berry addressed the council's Oct. 24 vote where he voted to break a tie, asking city attorney Tim Weaver to draft an ordinance establishing a permanent entertainment district based on the recommendations of the Entertainment District Committee. Berry said he vetoed that vote less than five days after the Oct. 24 meeting, saying he didn't agree with a few of the committee's recommendations.
Berry said he would like to include a sunset clause after a period of three months so the council can evaluate the effectiveness of the district. He doesn't believe the district should be in operation seven days a week for nine hours each day, Berry said. Rather, Berry suggested that the district operate for three days a week for seven hours each day.
"I believe this more moderate approach finds the common ground of limiting unnecessary cost to the city while maximizing the prime revenue opportunities that a permanent entertainment district has to offer," Berry said.
Berry said he is also opposed to the district extending to the top of Planer Hill but agrees with the boundaries going up Spring Street to German Alley, down German Alley to Center Street and from Center Street to the intersection of Tibbs Alley down to Main Street.
"I believe that the district should begin at the Cathouse and the Eureka Springs Historical Museum and extend down Main Street to Main Stage," Berry said.
Alderman Bob Thomas asked why Berry vetoed his vote when he could have just suggested amendments to the proposed ordinance.
"I don't understand why you chose to do it this way," Thomas said. "It's a bad precedent. It wasn't necessary."
During public comments, Entertainment District Committee representative Kendra Hughes addressed a survey handed out by alderman Harry Meyer to local businesses. Hughes said the survey results did not reflect her private conversations on the issue.
"It's also important to know that a lot of people didn't receive the survey," Hughes said. "I had countless people say to me they didn't get one. There was perhaps a bit of canvas bias. Alderman Meyer did tell people as he handed it out that he was not in favor of the ordinance."
Meyer said he had 100 surveys printed out and spent several days distributing them, visiting some businesses more than once.
"I take it as a personal affront to be accused of rigging the survey," Meyer said. "I could've rigged the survey and stayed home."
Alderwoman Mickey Schneider said everyone has been checking with the businesses in town but not the residents.
"They're the ones who live here. They're the ones who count," Schneider said. "Why are they not being talked to? They're the ones that have families and children running around. Nobody has bothered to talk about families."
Schneider said it's imperative to talk to the residents.
"You are taking their town and making a decision in regards to alcohol," Schneider said. "Everybody I've talked to is 100 percent against turning their town into some drunken alcoholic place just to supposedly bring in tourism, which is asinine."
Alderwoman Susan Harman said nobody knows what a permanent entertainment district will look like in Eureka Springs.
"The biggest thing this has brought up is the unknown. We don't have the facts to know whether or not it will be successful or whether it will fail," Harman said. "The only way we can determine it … is to move forward and do something about it."
Alderman Terry McClung agreed.
"I don't think the state legislature sat around and thought of a way to create more crime for cities," McClung said. "It is an unknown. It makes me nervous too, but at the same time, it's certainly worth investigating and trying."
Alderwoman Melissa Greene said most of the residents she has talked to support a permanent district, saying the council has one meeting left for the year and likely wouldn't approve an ordinance establishing a permanent district until February or March. That means the council has plenty of time to get feedback from the public, Greene said.
"If this doesn't happen, it's not going to hurt me as a citizen," Greene said. "What made me for it is I saw the young people were the driving force behind it, and they are our future. I want to give them a chance."
McClung moved to ask Weaver to draft an ordinance establishing a permanent entertainment district with a three-month sunset clause, saying the ordinance would include the other changes Berry suggested. The council approved the motion 4-2, with Meyer and Schneider voting against it.
In other business, city clerk Ann Armstrong announced the winners of the food truck lottery. The bus in the parking lot by Colossal Cupcakes won the Main Street area, Travis Holloway's parking lot won the Center Street area, the new owner of the Log Cabin Inn won the area from Highway 62 to Eugenia Street and the Eureka Springs Community Center and Hobbies & Homesteads won the area from Highway 62 West to the east side of town.
The council also approved a proposed ordinance for animal law changes on a first reading, a proposed ordinance rezoning 187 Huntsville Road on first and second readings, a resolution for the 2020 city hall office lease and a resolution for the 2020 parking lot lease.
The council's next regular meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 9, at The Auditorium.