Grapeland City Council Adopts Changes to Ordinance

By Sarah Naron

Messenger Reporter

GRAPELAND – The members of the Grapeland City Council engaged in a debate regarding changes proposed to Ordinance No. 95-1A for Large Assemblies during the council’s regularly scheduled monthly meeting held Tuesday, Jan. 9.

Council members Will Watson and Velda Parker suggested that the current ordinance be revised to allow large gatherings – whether held on private property or at facilities under the ownership of the City of Grapeland – to be attended by 100 people before the host was required to obtain a permit from the city.

An exception would be provided for locations such as the Grapeland Senior Citizens Center, where, as Councilwoman Parker pointed out, gatherings consisting of 100 or more attendees occur frequently. School events, church functions and “normal and reasonable private gatherings at the city park that do not require the use of city services” would also be granted exceptions.

In the midst of the discussion, it was decided that the attendance numbers allowed without a permit should be 60 people at events on private property and 50 people at locations owned by the city.

Among the issues discussed were traffic flow problems which could be caused by such large gatherings in certain portions of the city.

“We could amend this thing to death to make it fit the city,” said Mayor Pro Tem Michael Chapman. “It’s never going to fit the whole city.

“I can have a bunch of people at my house and not affect any traffic,” he pointed out. “(But) there’s some places 50 people’s not going to be able (to fit). You can’t even get down the street – barely – with one car there.”

Concerns were also raised regarding the ability of event holders possessing the ability to accommodate gatherings of up to 100 attendees.

“I don’t know that I’m fine with somebody having 100 people at their house when they know good and well they can’t occupy 100 people,” said Chapman. “Somebody could come buy this permit and get this deal for 100 people, and they’re going to be all in the street; they’re going to be in the neighbor’s yard.”

As Watson pointed out, such issues are addressed in the ordinance.

“If they’re out in the street and people can’t get through, then they’re going to get fined,” he said. “This ordinance deals with those situations.”

According to Watson, much of the essence of the revised, amended version of the ordinance.

“It almost has the exact same definitions for things; exact same fines and penalties,” he said. “All it does is, it sets a minimum quota for you to have to come get a permit from the city office. It revises the fee schedule to keep it from being as steep as it was.”

As Watson pointed out, the ordinance imposes a minimum permit fee of $500 on any resident hosting any event deemed a mass gathering by the city.

“This relaxes that a bit and sets it based on how big that gathering is, which I think is reasonable,” he said. “It even leaves it open in here that if we want to adopt a new fee schedule, we can.”

Following a period of further discussion, a motion was made, seconded and unanimously carried by the members of the council to accept the original draft of the ordinance.

“I want to tell you this, I appreciate each and every one of you working on this, thinking about it and trying to solve a very difficult situation,” said Mayor Balis Dailey. “I appreciate all of you for that.”

Sarah Naron may be reached via email at [email protected].

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