Bexley City Council has delayed a final vote until March 12 on recommended changes to a policy for the rental of Jeffrey Mansion, 165 N. Parkview Ave., regarding events at which alcohol is served.
Council is considering Ordinance 37-12, which, if approved, would affect the existing facility as well as a new multipurpose space to be created when the city completes a planned expansion of Jeffrey Mansion that is scheduled to begin in 2020.
The ordinance contains recommendations by the city's Recreation Board that rental events be required to end by 11 p.m. The board also recommends that one rental event at which alcohol is served be permitted per month in the new space.
During a third reading of the policy changes at a Feb. 19 meeting, council members discussed and heard public feedback regarding the recommendations.
Mayor Ben Kessler said the city began allowing Jeffrey Mansion to be rented for events where alcohol is served in 2012.
"We have amended that policy two times since then. This would be the fourth iteration of the policy," he said. "The intent being to dip into this larger space, examine what is occurring at that space, verify that it does not create an additional burden to the neighborhood, but also allow this to be a really useable, desirable amenity for the community at large."
Kessler said the recommended restrictions on the new space originally were drafted by the Jeffrey Mansion Master Plan Refresh Committee. The committee last year completed work on updating the 2008 Jeffrey Mansion master plan and recommended that rental events involving alcohol in the new space be allowed once a month and be required to end by 10 p.m.
The committee's recommendations were drafted in response to residents who spoke at public hearings about concerns that increasing the number of rental events at the mansion could cause noise and traffic congestion, Kessler said.
"We went through hearing concerns and we came out with restrictions," he said.
The city's Recreation Board reviewed the committee's recommendations and suggested that council allow events in the new space in which alcohol is served to be held once a month and end by 11 p.m. Recreation Board President Lindsay Hodge said board members were concerned that the committee's initial recommendations were too restrictive, while realizing the primary purpose for the new space is for recreation programming, rather than event rentals.
"The (rental) events have become sort of a secondhand option for utilizing the asset that we have and wanting to make it available to everybody in the community and beyond," Hodge said.
Several council members said they believe the proposed restrictions on the new Jeffrey Mansion space will not enable the facility to be used wisely.
"I think that Jeffrey Mansion, which one of our greatest assets and a gem of ours, is being really embarrassingly under-utilized if we're going to allow it to be used once a month," Councilman Tim Madison said. "I do not think it is in the best interest of the community for us to limit it to anywhere near that amount and I would propose once a week, to start off with, as a benefit to the community."
Council President Lori Ann Feibel said she lives close to Jeffrey Mansion. She said she favors finding a compromise that would enable the new space to be rented more than once a month for events where alcohol is served, while respecting the concerns of residents.
"I would much prefer us to loosen the regulations that have been placed on this, too," Feibel said. "I would love us to start at twice a month (for rental events where alcohol is served) and I, too, could favor music and alcohol to stop at 11 so that people are out the door by midnight."
Councilman Richard Sharp, chairman of council's Recreation Committee, proposed a series of amendments to the ordinance including: weekday rental events must end by 11 p.m.; weekend rental events must end by 11:30 p.m.; allowing 12 rental events in which alcohol is served to be held each year, rather than specifying that such events be held once a month; increasing the number of alcohol-related rental events to a maximum of 24 events per year if everything has gone smoothly after one year; exempting events with less than 128 attendees from the 12-event-per-year restriction; and not allowing the new space to be rented for an alcohol-related event if the existing Jeffrey Mansion space has already been rented.
"We can revisit the policy, as we have, periodically every few years, if need be," Sharp said.
Madison asked Michael Price, recreation department director, to prepare a set of projections for how much the new space could generate in revenue if events at which alcohol is served were held on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. Feibel asked Price to submit the revenue projections to council before the March 12 meeting so they could be reviewed before the discussion.
The March 12 meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. at Bexley City Hall, 2242 E. Main St.