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Will of residents, legal technicalities likely to derail Berry's proposal

Norwalk Reflector Staff • Oct 29, 2015 at 12:46 PM

Doug Berry's request to serve alcohol in Bresson Park will get an up or down vote in the coming weeks from Norwalk's council but would likely not go into effect this year.

Council on Tuesday discussed Berry's request, which member Bob Carleton presented in two forms: One that would expand the city's lease agreement, which already allows the restaurant to serve food in the park, to include alcohol; the other that would change the city ordinance that prohibits alcohol in public parks.

The legislation would cross a line and open up the city to challenges from other businesses or organizations, said Law Director Stuart O'Hara, who intends to do more research and present his findings at the June 26 council meeting. "You run into the problem of selectivity," he said. "It's opened a door I don't think you intended to open."

Council member Tom Stoll suggested the city might be able to alter Bresson Park's designation as a public park and make other arrangements with Berry's.

Mayor Sue Lesch said she opposes the proposal, not based on Berry's, but because it has wide repercussions.

Council member Dwight Tkach countered that the city always helps business through grants and tax abatements. Lesch responded that those dollars always come with a requirement to create a certain amount of jobs, which serves the public good.

Even rewritten to eliminate the potential legal problems, several council members said they have heard from many constituents and they are overwhelmingly and adamantly opposed to allowing alcohol in public parks.

"I'm sure the constituents I talked with aren't opposed to it on any technicality, they are full-blown opposed," said council member Chris Mushett. "I can't see the public view point changing no matter how we craft an ordinance."

Tkach said the city only focuses on the negatives and what ifs when businesses request help. He added other cities, such as Sandusky, are able to do such things and it has not had negative effects.

The city's park board voted against the proposal three-to-one earlier in the day.

Police Chief Kevin Cashen also spoke against the idea, saying public drinking is already a problem in the city. Lesch added Ann Bresson, a member of the family for which the park is named, opposes the proposal.

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