Should a wine tasting event be allowed in Bingham Park? Some members on Hawley Borough Council remain skeptical. Borough Park & Recreation (Rec) Committee favors the plan.
A workshop has been scheduled to discuss the concept further, Tuesday Nov. 27 at 6 p.m. with the Park & Rec Committee. Issues can be debated in more detail at workshops, although no votes are taken until the regular Council meeting.
Janet DeLuca, who chairs the committee, addressed Borough Council Nov. 14th. Concerns forwarded by Councilman John Robertson had been answered by Jon Henderson, who is requesting permission to hold the wine and food festival in the park in June 2013.
Little information was brought out about Henderson's plans, except that he hopes to have two sessions at local restaurants prior to a couple sessions in the borough park over a weekend in June.
Henderson, who is a Hawley native, organizes food & wine events and cigar socials in the Atlantic City, NJ area.
Six of the seven committee Park & Rec members were present at the last meeting, DeLuca, said, and "all six were in favor."
"No bottles of wine will be consumed," DeLuca told Council. rather, only a half an ounce to an ounce would be "tasted." The wine tasting are would be fenced off and security posted to ensure that consumption of alcohol does not go beyond the limit.
Council's concerns center on the appropriateness of allowing alcoholic beverages to be drank in a borough park.
Mary Sanders, Council Vice-president reiterated that a precedent would be set. By allowing this exception for one man's event, she asked, how would Council stop others?
Joe Faubel, Councilman, said that a set of standards is needed to ensure there is no over-consumption. "Wine is not the focus," he said, "it is complementary to the food..."
Faubel also serves on the Park & Rec Committee.
"But it's there," Sanders said; someone could begin drinking in the park, leave and continue drinking somewhere else and be in a motor vehicle crash.
Elaine Herzog, who is both on Council and Park & Rec, cited the 1989 Borough Ordinance prohibiting open containers of alcoholic beverage in the parks. She said said will be "no open bottles" at the event. In addition, the ordinance allows exceptions for nonprofit and civic groups, with approval from Council. She said she did not know if this proposed function is being planned by a nonprofit group, but the intent is to put back money raised in the community.
Councilwoman Michele Rojas agreed that a precedent would be set, and that any discussion should be done in a public meeting. Council President Don Kyzer repeated his conviction that the did not like to see alcohol allowed in Bingham Park.
Faubel added that he realizes there is a concern about the Borough setting a precedent, but he noted this has been done before across the country in other boroughs. He said that Hawley Borough can see how it was handled and learn from other's mistakes. What as important is to treat everyone fairly.
Councilman Robertson said he felt it would be better to not rush but hold off on the event until the following year. Faubel agreed. Although the applicant stated he felt all he needed was four months to organize the event, Faubel suggested that the applicant may need more time to book "celebrity chefs." The organizer needs to start soon, Faubel said in Henderson's defense, and would likely be looking to plan these events again. Said Faubel, "2014 is better than have a mess by rushing it."
Sanders replied that Council would be sending the wrong message to be talking as if the Borough was a partner with the applicant, concerned that he would have enough time to do it right. "Park & Rec shouldn't plan an event with alcohol," Sanders said. Instead, the Borough needs to set restrictions, and it is up to the applicant to meet them, not the Borough.
She added she would not have an issue if the event was held on private property.
Hawley Borough just launched their first web site (www.hawleyborough.org). On the page about the parks, it states, "Please note that the use of alcohol is prohibited in any of the borough parks or on public property."
Editor's Note: The public hearing that was set at 6 p.m. prior to the Dec. 12th Hawley Council meeting on the proposed tax abatement asked by the Silk Mill, has been changed to a "workshop." Public may still attend, but public comment is not taken during workshops, which are provided for borough officials to discuss a matter further. A hearing to take comment will be set at a later date.