City Council is asked to ban guns in parks

Friday, July 10, 2009

Lewisburg's City Council should exercise an option to prohibit handguns in public parks, according to a recommendation from three top managers of the city.

The option is part of an act passed this summer by state lawmakers who said that without a local ban, people with a gun carry permit could have their weapon with them in public parks.

City Manager Eddie Fuller, Police Chief Chuck Forbis and Recreation Center Director Guy Chambers are recommending that Lewisburg use the option.

"We're presenting it to the Council to say, 'We'd prefer you not bring your gun to the park,'" Fuller said.

"What they [lawmakers] passed allows people to carry guns at GoatFest," Fuller said in remarks Wednesday with Forbis at his side.

Beyond the state law allowing guns in parks, there was another new gun law enacted by state lawmakers. It allows gun carry permit holders to be armed in establishments that serve alcoholic beverages as long as they don't drink. State Rep Eddie Bass, the lawmaker who serves Marshall County, voted for that gun law. As a former Giles County sheriff, Bass said people with gun carry permits aren't a problem. They wouldn't risk loss of the privilege to go armed.

"From my experience," Lewisburg's police chief said in response to Bass' position, "I don't think there should be guns where there are crowds, families or where alcohol is served.

"Alcohol and guns don't mix," Forbis said.

Fuller said he does not believe Lewisburg is experiencing a problem with guns in parks, but he, the chief and Chambers want to be proactive. Fuller also noted that there have been shooting deaths in city parks here.

One was at the Harmon Playground, he said. The other was at Jones Circle near the central office of the Marshall County School System. One was 3-4 years ago. The other was15-20 years ago.

"If this passes," Forbis said, "we'll have to post signs" at parks.

The signs might be similar to those posted at the entrances to the Marshall County Courthouse and at public schools across the state.

The Council faces several other matters when it convenes at 6 p.m. on Tuesday in City Hall. They include:

> Adding a definition of a bottle club to the city's land use zoning ordinance.

Typically, a bottle club is an after-hours establishment operating without a liquor license. Such a license to sell alcohol isn't needed because it's not being sold. So-called members of the club bring their own. They might buy table service of iced cola in a glass into which they pour their own rum.

"To my knowledge," Fuller said, "we have no bottle clubs."

However, the idea of establishing such arose during a Beer Board meeting recently and that panel forwarded a recommendation to the Planning Commission. Its members endorsed the idea and sent it on to the Council. Robin Minor is a member of all three panels.

An ordinance is proposed to amend the zoning code to include a definition of a bottle club and to state what land use zone, or property classification, is appropriate for bottle clubs, according to the Council's agenda.

> Two other zoning ordinance amendments; both sought for separate properties.

Johnny Perryman wants 744 Crestland rezoned from a residential classification to a business zone so he can conduct a floor covering business there.

Lisa Morris has asked that 973 Old Belfast Road be rezoned from an industrial classification to a residential zone. A house there is next to another tract that's zoned industrial, but the residential use of the house depends on that building's continued presence. If it burned, it couldn't be rebuilt.

Both of those rezoning requests are to be considered on the "third and final reading," meaning that they've received two previously favorable votes by the Council and with the third approval, the re-zonings will become final.

> Another third and final reading of an ordinance set for Tuesday pertains to the city's property tax rate.

It's now at $1.36 per $100 of assessed value, meaning that a house valued at $100,000 would have an annual city property tax bill of $340.

This will be the 21st year that Lewisburg has not changed the effective rate for property taxes. Although there have been reappraisals, the rate has been lowered to accommodate increased property values. Reappraisal is an effort to equalize property tax payments so that similar properties are subject to a tax bill that's substantially the same.