The Brooksville City Council tabled a proposed ordinance requiring those hosting large “feeding events” in public parks to obtain permits in advance. The proposed measure had its first reading during the panel’s regular meeting on Jan. 9. The proposed ordinance is meant to give the city greater control over events that provide food for the homeless in city parks. Agenda documentation states, “The current impact of homeless activity in the parks and restrooms has become detrimental to the livelihood of our community.”
Under the proposed measure, anyone hosting an event in a city park, such as a family reunion, for 25 people or more where food is to be served must obtain a permit from the city not more than 180 days before and not less than 60 calendar days before the date of the event.
Also, under the proposed ordinance, no more than two ‘large group feeding permits’ may be issued to the same person, group, or organization for ‘large group feedings’ for the same park within a year.
According to City Parks and Recreation Director David L. Howard Jr., the proposed measure is intended to boost staff availability and minimize damage to park facilities and amenities. “One of the issues that we’ve encountered (is) by allowing some of these unrestricted large group feedings is increased restroom usage, damage and taking up all the seating in shaded areas in our parks which is creating a bit of an issue for some of the smaller families who are then coming out enjoying the parks,” Howard told the panel. “Having that large group ordinance (can allow) the city to be more calculated in terms of more hands on deck when there is a particular event (so) we can provide a better service to the community.”
Mayor Blake Bell called the measure “excellent,” but some members of the Council had reservations.
“I love the idea of this, but I hate the government getting in the way of something like a birthday party,” said Council member Casey Thieryung. “If you have a party of 10 kids and two parents come, you’re up to (more than) 25 people.”
Crista Tanner said she was concerned about allowing non-profit organizations such as the Kiwanis Club to seek event permits just twice a year and discouraging non-profit groups from hosting events intended to provide meals to the homeless and those who are food insecure.
“We don’t want to discourage that, but we want to make sure that the city has the ability to monitor that,” Howard said.
Finally, Thieryung motioned to put off the Council’s decision about the proposed measure until it could discuss its details.
According to agenda documentation, an alternative to the proposed ordinance would be hiring security.
The Council will consider the proposal during its workshop session on Jan. 30.