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Common Council will address Scrima's veto on Special Event Ordinance at Thursday meeting

Feb. 20, 2013

After Mayor Jeff Scrima vetoed a special event ordinance relating to street closures a couple weeks ago, the Common Council will finally get to address that ruling at its meeting Thursday.

Scrima said he made what he called “a friendly veto” at the request of leaders of the Waukesha Downtown Business Association’s Friday Night Live committee.

The mayor said “some language is vague and the business leaders feel that it needs to be improved to avoid arbitrary and subjective decisions.”

Part of the ordinance read, “the time, size and nature of the Special Event shall not create an undue hardship or unduly interfere with residents and commercial and business activities in the closed area or the immediate vicinity thereto.”

City Attorney Curt Meitz said the “undue hardship” clause would not be implemented based on one noise complaint.

But Scrima said in his veto message that while the WDBA “appreciates the sincerity and professionalism of Attorney Meitz, the next city attorney may misinterpret the wording and bring about refusals when met with relentless complaints of a few.”

“Quite simply ‘undue hardship’ ought to be specifically defined within this ordinance,” Scrima said.

Another section outlined by Scrima that WDBA leaders had issue with was the part that read “there are a sufficient number of parking spaces within a reasonable distance or alternative transportation options to accommodate the number of vehicles expected for the event.”

“Has any analysis been done to describe limits for parking of visitors in any area of the city? Without clarity, the wrong interpretation of this section will cause a refusal for all events or parades,” Scrima said.

The final part of the ordinance that was highlighted was “the proposed activity regulated under this section will not substantially or unnecessarily interfere with traffic in the area continuous to the activity or that if the activity will substantially interfere with such traffic, that there are available at the time of the proposed activity sufficient city resources to mitigate the disruption.”

“Once again, a literal enforcement of this section seems to lead to refusal of any requests that close streets,” Scrima said.

While the ordinance doesn’t specifically state Friday Night Live, the summer concert series that has musical acts in front of downtown businesses Friday nights from June through September has been at the center of controversy for the last couple of years when Waukesha police decided to close selected downtown streets due to safety precautions.

The president of the WDBA, which puts on the event, recently spoke out on the ordinance as well.

"I know that more restrictions and fees are not the answer to business retention," Roger Igielski said.

On the flip side, some property owners have voiced their opinions against the street closures because they say it's difficult to get to their business and that the amount of dates should be limited.

But advocates of Friday Night Live say that the concert series should be more embraced because it brings foot traffic to downtown and that there shouldn’t be more regulations in place to make it difficult to come downtown.

The Common Council meeting is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at the City Hall Council Chambers, 201 Delafield St.

Before that, the Ordinance and License Committee will meet at 7 p.m. at the Dreyfus Room inside City Hall to discuss and recommend an amendment to the Special Event Ordinance.

Other items: The Common Council will also look at the Finance Committee's recommendation of approving a contract with the Cemetery Planning Resource Alliance for a fundraising effort in support of the Pet Cemetery at Prairie Home Cemetery. This is subject to approval by the city attorney for $2,000 for Phase I of the project.

The Council will also look at the Finance Committee's recommendation of approving a request from the city administrator to appropriate $15,632 from the Fund 400 Account to participate in the City/County Building Space Needs Study.

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