Community events back in Atherton park
The unintended consequences of the Atherton City Council's vote in December to prohibit weddings and other special events in Holbrook-Palmer Park prompted the council last week to modify the ban to allow special community events — such as the annual Easter Egg Hunt, ice cream socials and birthday parties.
The council, at its March 21 meeting, revisited its December decision at the request of Mayor Bill Widmer and Vice Mayor Elizabeth Lewis. In a memo written to their colleagues, they noted that the decision, intended to address large events not related to the town that were preventing residents from enjoying the town's only park, was also adversely affecting residents.
"In late December 2011 a resident requested the use of Jennings Pavilion at the park for a small, 80-person memorial service for a loved one," they wrote. The denial of the request due to the newly enacted ban "highlighted the unintended consequence of the ... decision to eliminate all rentals at the park," they added.
Although the discussion began broadly, with a staff report analyzing potential revenue generated should the council allow weddings and corporate events in the park again, council members Kathy McKeithen and Jim Dobbie insisted that the topic be limited to allowing only community events to be held at the park — the focus of the memo that led to the matter being placed on the agenda.
A spirited discussion nevertheless took place, one that included Councilman Jerry Carlson's preferred method of managing outside special events through higher pricing rather than banning them outright.
It concluded with a unanimous council vote allowing certain events to return to the park: those sponsored by town-designated committees and organizations, as well as classes, community meetings, birthday parties and other small celebratory events hosted by residents.
December's 3-2 vote to ban events in the park, with council members Carlson and Lewis dissenting, was in response to residents' complaints that they could no longer enjoy their park, particularly on weekends, because large weddings and other outside events monopolized parking and created other problems.