By KAREN DILLON
At its town council meeting Tuesday night, Boones Mill moved one step closer to adopting a special events ordinance.
No residents attended the Jan. 14 meeting to speak during the public hearing for the proposed ordinance; however, Boones Mill Town Manager B.T. Fitzpatrick III said he had received written comments from Toni Mills, organizer of last year’s Boones Mill Apple Festival.
“She has had a number of comments made to her from vendors and other committee members wanting to keep the festival in downtown at its current location,” Fitzpatrick said. “And our ordinance, both the previous version and the most recent one, will enable us to do that.”
Attorney John Boitnott reviewed the ordinance with council members during the meeting. “This ordinance is intended to establish the rules by which you will govern your events going forward,” he said.
Any fees, policies and standard operating procedures will be established by the town manager and drafted separately, Boitnott said.
“After you adopt this ordinance and in consultation with your town manager, the town will establish and publish a schedule of fees,” he said. “We don’t put the fees in the ordinance because you don’t want to change the ordinance every time you change the fees.”
The ordinance provides a framework for organizations or individuals interested in holding special events in the town. “I’m just giving you the frame,” Boitnott told council members. “You put the boards on it.”
Although there was no dissent, council members agreed Tuesday night to postpone adopting the ordinance until its next meeting on Jan. 28 at 1 p.m.
“We don’t have anything pressing, so what’s it matter if we go ahead and get it revised or grammatically correct, etc., and do it next month,” Boones Mill Mayor Ben Flora said. “We don’t have people beating down the door to do a special event, so I say we just wait.”
In other business, Fitzpatrick suggested that council members consider hosting a state of the town address. “I would highly recommend that we do one,” Fitzpatrick said.
Flora agreed. “I don’t think it’s a bad thing at all. It’s something we’ve never done.”
The meeting is tentatively scheduled for late February. At press time, Fitzpatrick was confirming the date, time and location of the event.
Council members also were briefed Tuesday on a proposal to update the town’s weapons and hunting ordinance. Boitnott explained to council members that the draft of the ordinance was based on his research and experience.
“Hunting with firearms inside town limits is prohibited in all areas of the town at all times except as permitted by the ordinance,” he said.
The exchange became heated when council member Keith Chrisman asked about hunting with guns or taking target practice on his property, which is inside town limits. “What about if it’s your own property and not the town property?”
Boitnott said that would not be allowed under the proposed ordinance.
“You messed up everything for everybody, I tell you that right now,” Chrisman said. “I own the damn property and I pay taxes on it. That’s not right. You’re infringing on my rights to do what I want on my own property.”
Some council members questioned whether the ordinance was about noise or safety.
“It’s not about the noise, it’s about the danger,” said council member Sarah Eames. “We’ve got about 13 acres and we’ve had people coming and hunting on our property that we haven’t given permission to. It’s the dangers that are associated with it. The problem is you can’t make a special allowance for individuals.”
Chrisman said he felt like he was being singled out because he was a hunter.
“You’re not being singled out,” Eames told Chrisman. “It’s not about you. It’s about safety.”
Because the town is just a half-mile wide and a mile long, Flora acknowledged there are challenges. “It’s interesting that some areas are more rural and others are more dense.”
Council member Jason Masching agreed.
“I mean, I’ve got 7 acres, and I could make a case that I’ve got land that I could shoot on but unfortunately, it is kind of a small area and a lot of it is kind of densely packed,” Masching said.
Boitnott said the draft would be reviewed by Fitzpatrick and Boones Mill Police Chief Dennis Deacon before it’s presented to council members for a vote.