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Cookeville Council Passes Ordinance Limiting Alcohol On City Property

/ The Upper Cumberland's News Leader
Cookeville Council Passes Ordinance Limiting Alcohol On City Property

Despite public comment in opposition, Cookeville City Council passed an ordinance to prohibit the sale and consumption of alcohol at non-city events in city parks and streets Thursday night.

The ordinance will prohibit special events with alcohol at Dogwood Park unless the event is conceived and produced by the city. Resident Blair Dudley said he feels the council is telling the citizens they are not adult enough to drink responsibly.

“I see this as solving problems that we don’t actually have, we’re not encountering,” Dudley said. “It’s like preventative medicine or something for something that we’re not actually encountering where other protocols could come into place.”

Council Member Chad Gilbert said the city is at legal risk by having to decide what events will be city-sponsored. Gilbert said the Cookeville Leisure Service Department is also left exposed by having to denote where drinking is permitted at events, especially when it could prevent the park from being used for its intended purpose.

“Let’s talk about a comprehensive reform on all of these things, and if nothing else, this is a catalyst for that,” Gilbert said. “What we have right now is a dysfunctional ordinance and they’re saying, “Hey guys, we’re having a hard time managing this, we need some help here,” and that’s what they’ve offered us,” Gilbert said.

Gilbert said he is open to holding work sessions over the coming months to hear from the public and research ways to make alcohol sales in public spaces work. However, he said that the council cannot leave bad policy in place until a potential solution can be reached.

Gilbert said the growth of Cookeville’s downtown growth under present circumstances that do not allow alcohol sales on streets or sidewalks proves that businesses are thriving regardless of whether they can serve drinks in public spaces.

“I don’t agree with the narrative that this is just a necessity for them to be successful down there, and I don’t agree with the hyperbole about prohibitionists and it’s the end of the world,” Gilbert said. “I think we have a fairly binary issue here that our staff and our attorneys that we pay have presented.”

The ordinance was drafted by City Manager James Mills with help from city attorneys after the council decided last summer that a solution needed to be reached before the new year.

In other business, the council approved an agreement to purchase property on Lee Avenue and tear down an apartment complex as part of a Tennessee Tech wastewater pump station project. Cookeville Water and Sewer Director Barry Turner said the city has negotiated with Soard Properties on an agreement to purchase the property for some $550,000.

The city also voted to appoint Jason Fowler to the Planning Commission for a full, five-year term after the resignation of long-time commission member Jim Stafne. The Sewer Appeals Board has a new member as well. Phil Staton will be replaced by Joel Deason while Kim Williams, whose term also expired, will continue to serve.


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