Jonesborough BMA to consider charging for-profits for special event permits

Zach Vance • Aug 13, 2018 at 10:46 PM

The town of Jonesborough may start charging for-profit companies to apply for special event permits in an attempt to recoup costs associated with providing law enforcement, parking, closing streets and cleanup.

The discussion began Monday as the Board of Mayor and Aldermen considered an application for the Haunted Half Marathon and Boo to Brew Relay on Oct. 27, organized by the for-profit company We Run Events. 

The event had previously been held in Kingsport, but last year, the organizers moved the sanctioned half marathon to Jonesborough. According to the agenda packet, We Run Events estimates there will be 1,200 participants in this year’s race, plus family members and spectators. 

Operations Manager Craig Ford estimated the town pays roughly $5,000 in salaries and overtime for police and town officials to staff the event. 

Alderman David Sell and Mayor Chuck Vest both agreed with charging the company, who is believed to be the only for-profit company to regularly apply for special event permits. 

However, Town Attorney Jim Wheeler said the board would have to first pass a resolution changing the ordinance for special event permits, which currently does not allow a fee to be charged.

Wheeler said a set fee would have to established before each for-profit applicant could be charged.

“First, to charge, it has to be at rates that have been set by resolution, and I’m not aware of any resolutions setting rates. So in order to pass a fee along, you’re going to have to pass a resolution to do that.

“Secondly, currently the way its written and this may need to be changed, but currently, the town has to determine that the special event is not expected to generate tax revenue sufficient to pay the town’s expected cost for services and utilities.

“And I don’t think you can do that based on, ‘We don’t think it will,’ ” Wheeler said. 

“Thirdly, there is no distinctions in this ordinance between for-profit and nonprofit. So I do not think you can base it on that at this stage unless we change the ordinance.” 

Vest said the board will likely take up an ordinance next month that would allow the town to begin charging for-profit companies for special event permits. 

The board deferred approval of the special event application, for now, but passed a measure authorizing the police department to begin negotiating a cost with the event organizers. 

In other business, the board voted unanimously to approve a split rezoning for property at 132 N. Lincoln Ave. from a medium-density residential to an urban commercial corridor business. The property is owned by Tom Foster, owner of Foster Signs. 

“This was deemed a reasonable arrangement to allow some commercial use while maintaining the residential character of the upper part of N. Lincoln Ave.,” town staff wrote in their recommendation. 

The aldermen and mayor also approved a recommendation from Police Chief Ron Street to sell 17 old Smith & Wesson ankle revolvers at $215 each and replace them with new 9 mm Glock 43 handguns. The total cost is projected to be $1,363.50, which will come out of the police department’s budget.