Broader Fee Waiver Recommended for Parks

A recommendation to waive fees for any charity that distributes “goods for basic needs” in Ann Arbor parks was passed unanimously by the city’s park advisory commission at its Sept. 17, 2013 meeting. It was brought forward by Christopher Taylor, a city councilmember and ex-officio member of PAC.

The commission’s recommendation comes two months after the Ann Arbor city council waived all rental fees for the use of Liberty Plaza during a one-year trial period, based on a PAC recommendation. That city council action came at its July 15, 2013 meeting. That fee waiver was approved in response to a situation that arose earlier in the spring, when city staff considered applying fees to the hosting of Pizza in the Park in Liberty Plaza – a homelessness outreach ministry of a local church. Liberty Plaza is an urban park located at the southwest corner of Liberty and Divisions streets in downtown Ann Arbor.

However, members of Camp Take Notice, a self-governed homelessness community, have lobbied for a more general written commitment that the city would allow humanitarian efforts to take place on public land generally. They’ve objected to the focus by the council and the park advisory commission on general activities – as opposed to the protection of humanitarian aid efforts.

The resolution passed by PAC on Sept. 17 would amend Chapter 39, Section 3:6 of the city code. [.pdf of revised ordinance language] It would be a permanent fee waiver for this specific purpose, but it would still require that organizations get a permit to use the park, and follow permitting procedures, including clean up obligations.

Several members of Camp Take Notice attended the Sept. 17 meeting, but did not address the commission before the vote.

Taylor indicated that he would bring this resolution to the city council at its Oct. 21 meeting for a first reading, followed by a public hearing and final reading at a subsequent meeting.

This brief was filed from the second-floor council chambers at city hall, 301 E. Huron. A more detailed report will follow: [link]