Outdoor gatherings

Published 1:48 pm Thursday, July 2, 2020

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Columbus considering ordinance to regulate

COLUMBUS—The Town of Columbus is considering an ordinance to regulate outdoor gatherings.

Columbus Town Council met last week and discussed the proposal. Council decided to refer the drafting of an ordinance to the town attorney. Council plans to consider the draft during its July meeting and present the draft to county officials.

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Councilman Mark Phillips said that the proposed ordinance would apply to any large outdoor gathering, including assemblies, festivals or parades.

Columbus Police Chief Scott Hamby said he is in favor of a policy to allow the police department grounds for controlling crowds.

Columbus Town Attorney Lora Baker described that the ordinance would specify where in town people can reserve for large gatherings. The ordinance would include that people who wish to gather would ask the town for permission and obtain a permit.

Other towns require large gatherings, including protests, to obtain a permit. Tryon, for example, requires a permit for people to gather in town.

Baker said that the town’s approval of the events cannot be contingent on the content of the gatherings, but the town would apply universal rules to its permitting.

Councilman Robert Williamson, in terms of a policy, suggested an ordinance instead, saying an ordinance has the force of law.

Columbus Mayor Pat McCool said the town is in no way trying to prevent any gathering in Columbus, but wants to ensure that the town is aware of any large gatherings.

Williamson suggested that the draft ordinance be reviewed with Polk County officials since many gatherings in Columbus are owned by either Polk County government or the Polk County School Board. Williamson also said local officials need to protect its assets, such as the Doughboy statue, located near the courthouse.