Vacancy declared for Smole’s council seat

Thursday, October 28, 2021

The Eureka Springs City Council declared a vacancy for Ward 1, Position 2 Monday night.

Former council member Laura Jo Smole announced her resignation in a letter read to the council by Mayor Butch Berry on Oct. 11. At that meeting, Berry said Smole resigned for health reasons and will be missed at the council table. Council member Harry Meyer said Monday night that he spoke with Smole recently.

“She does not want to come back. She’s still nursing herself back to health,” Meyer said.

Meyer then moved to declare a vacancy for Smole’s position and the council unanimously agreed to do so. The council will consider applications to fill the vacancy at its next regular meeting, slated for Monday, Nov. 8.

Also at the meeting, the council considered a proposed ordinance amending Title 7 of the municipal code regarding sound generation in commercial zones. The proposed ordinance states that sound cannot exceed 65 decibels “out-of-doors in a commercially zoned area,” excluding businesses that have a restaurant license, outdoor seating and an amplified sound permit authorized for an officially approved music festival.

“Amplified sound emanating from permitted businesses will not exceed 85 dB for officially approved music festivals,” the proposed ordinance reads.

Additionally, the proposed ordinance reads, sound cannot exceed 65 decibels indoors in a commercially-zoned area, with the same exclusions stated above for outdoor commercially zoned areas. Under no circumstances, the proposed ordinance reads, should sound exceed 60 decibels in a residential area.

Council member Melissa Greene moved to read the ordinance for a first time and everyone voted to do so except council member Autumn Slane, who said she had many questions about the proposed ordinance. Berry said the proposed ordinance would amend the existing sound ordinance and council member Bill Ott asked if the amendments would apply to approved music festivals. Berry said they would if the council adopts the proposed ordinance.

Slane asked if the proposed ordinance applies to private property, reading a portion of the document that defines an officially approved music festival as “an organized event held partially on public property and typically lasting several days.”

“I feel like this is a tricky area, because we may be leaving ourselves open to discrimination … being able to pick and choose who we want to get these permits,” Slane said. “That’s really my only concern with this moving forward.”

Meyer asked how the sound would be measured and Berry said the measurement would take place “beyond the perimeter of the property.” McClung reiterated that the proposed ordinance is an amendment to an existing ordinance, so certain verbiage is already in city code.

“This is the same sound ordinance, except for music festivals … they can crank it up to 85,” Ott said.

“This is making some changes to that ordinance … but only to those specific things and not the total ordinance,” McClung said.

“The other ordinance is in place,” Ott said. “This one would apply just for approved music festivals.”

“No, it’s more than that,” McClung said.

City clerk Ann Armstrong said the proposed ordinance has an emphasis on approved music festivals.

“And to address Ms. Slane’s concern, the reason this is at the table is to prevent what appears to some to be picking and choosing and discrimination,” Armstrong said. “This is to clarify what is a city-approved music festival … something that involves the use of city property specifically, but not only, and that way there is a line that property owners understand, that the police understand.”

McClung said the proposed ordinance is better than what the council looked over at its last meeting.

“It’s more clear to me. I can follow this,” McClung said. “I’m happy with this personally.”

Greene moved to approve the proposed ordinance on a first reading and the council unanimously agreed to do so.

The council then approved a resolution authorizing Berry to execute a proportionate share agreement for the state district court judgeship base salary for 2022. According to the resolution, the district court judge’s salary is split among Carroll County, Madison County, Berryville, Eureka Springs, Green Forest and Huntsville. Each share is $8,378.57, the resolution reads.

Earlier at the meeting, the council held a public hearing to vacate a portion of Owl Street. Roger Walker spoke during the public hearing, saying his property lies within Owl Street and he’s “yet to see a clear drawing … of what’s being asked to be vacated.”

“The only map description plat I’ve been given is very unclear and doesn’t make sense to me,” Walker said. “What would you do in my place? I’m simply looking for clarification.”

During new business, McClung said he visited the site and spoke with Walker about vacating the area.

“I thought I had it explained to him exactly what was going on and maybe since then it’s become less clear to him,” McClung said. “But it’s all OK. It does not adversely affect his property in any way. Owl Street back behind him is already closed and this just cleans all that up. I’m glad it’s being done.”

McClung moved to approve a proposed ordinance vacating a portion of Owl Street on a first reading and the council unanimously agreed to do so. McClung then moved to approve the proposed ordinance on a second reading by title only, and council unanimously voted yes.

The council moved on to consider a group franchise tour application for Joe Gunnels Tours. Ott moved to approve the application and the council unanimously agreed to do so.

“Same as last year, isn’t it?” Meyer asked.

Berry confirmed that Gunnels has submitted the same application for the last several years, “numerous years without any complaints.”

“It is a good thing,” Greene said.

“It’s positive,” Berry said. “He’s done a good job.”

In other business, the council accepted the 2019 audit, acknowledged the third-quarter 2021 financials and approved a resolution amending the 2020 budget.

The council’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, Nov. 8, at the Auditorium.

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