Fairgrounds alcohol ordinance gets first read

Jesse Hollett
Posted 8/9/17

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – The Clay County Board of County Commissioners Tuesday voted 3-2 to advance a measure that will allow the sale of beer and wine at the Clay County Fairgrounds

As proposed, …

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Fairgrounds alcohol ordinance gets first read

Posted

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – The Clay County Board of County Commissioners Tuesday voted 3-2 to advance a measure that will allow the sale of beer and wine at the Clay County Fairgrounds
As proposed, the ordinance would provide a pathway for vendors to setup secure “alcohol zones” where patrons of legal age could purchase alcoholic beverages.
Consumers could not leave the premises of the “alcohol zone” with their beverage and would be limited in the amount they could purchase to prevent alcohol fueled public safety incidents.
Since its establishment more than 30 years ago, the Clay County Fairgrounds has never had an event that sold alcohol.
The annual Clay County Agricultural Fair will not be one of the events where alcohol is permitted.
“It is our position that we remain an alcohol free fair, regardless of the county’s decision to allow alcohol on the fairgrounds or not, we have no desire to allow for the consumption or sale of alcoholic beverages at the fair,” read a statement from the Clay County Fair Board. “We will continue to be a family affair.”
The Clay County Agricultural Fair, a weeklong springtime draw to the area, is not the only event hosted at the Clay County Fairgrounds, however. Commissioners who support the ordinance hope that by loosening restrictions on the sale of beer and wine, that the fairgrounds could attract more events and see an uptick in use and revenue.
They already have one event ready and willing to sell alcohol. The coordinators of the annual Northeast Florida Scottish Games and Festival at the fairgrounds has advocated for the sale of alcohol since the event moved there from the University of North Florida 16 years ago.
“We are a family-oriented group,” said Audie Gibson, president of the Scottish Games Board. “But, we’re Scots also.”
”We would like to be able to give more back to the county through more money coming into us, we are a weather-dominated organization or an event – one year, we almost lost it…this would help us with seed money to keep presenting our event in Clay County,” he said.
For any event on the fairgrounds to serve alcohol, they would have to obtain a permit and set up the alcohol zone with a physical barrier separating the event from the alcohol zone. This zone would be manned with an adequate police presence and medical personnel to ensure the event goes smoothly.
The event will pay for these services and pay a fee for the permit.
“We have one event that’s asking, we have another event that’s inquired about that and who knows where we go from there, but it’s not going to be widespread where every Friday and Saturday we have an event out there that’s selling beer, at least not at this point in time,” said Commissioner Mike Cella.
Commissioners also approved Aug. 3 a recommendation from the Tourist Development Council to appropriate $35,000 to fund a master plan for the Clay County Fairgrounds.
The master plan would examine the current usage of the fairgrounds and look for ways to bring in new events. Officials said the goal of the master plan is to lead to a boost in fairgrounds usage and revenue.
The county will use funds from the Clay County hotel-motel bed tax, the tax placed on area hoteliers to fund tourism in the county, to fund the study.
“We need to figure out what we need to do with the fairgrounds to make it the best most-utilized facility that we can,” Cella said.
Staff advisors and graduate students from the University of Florida will study the fairgrounds. The usage of the university’s talent means that the county can give the work to graduate students who need the experience instead of investing far more money on a plan developed by a planning firm.
In other business, commissioners voted to pass a proposed ordinance that would provide a clearer pathway to the construction of tiny houses in the county. The proposal was sent back to the Clay County Planning Commission for further discussion and revision.
The county directed staff to develop regulations for tiny houses in April so that they could be provided for within the county building code.
Currently, the county disallows the construction of any dwelling smaller than 750 feet.
Most tiny homes are thought to be below 500 feet or less, so many residents inquiring as to whether or not they could construct a tiny house, were left spurned.
Staff brought back a recommendation that tiny houses be allowed in agriculture residential and agricultural district zoning categories because allowing someone to build a tiny house near to, say, a house on Fleming Island would appear incompatible.
However, if the county passes an ordinance that mainly allows tiny homes within these districts, then each tiny home would have to be placed on at least five acres of property.
Staff hoped the commission would discuss whether or not to lift the current 750 minimum square foot requirement on all homes within Clay County, and whether to allow tiny house “pocket neighborhoods” within the county.
While there was talk on what to do with the staff recommendations, there were ultimately too many questions regarding the outcome of their decision and not enough answers to direct staff to move forward with the ordinance.
The Planning Commission will pick up the discussion in its Sept. 5 meeting. There, the idea to allow tiny houses could be denied altogether. If the Planning Commission decides to move forward, it will discuss what needs to happen to ensure tiny houses are zoned compatibly with the rest of the county.

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