PUNTA GORDA — Requests for two event street closures in Punta Gorda were approved recently by the City Council — one went smoothly, the other did not.
The City Council on Wednesday approved a request from Lee Richardson of Leroy’s Southern Kitchen to shut down a portion of Sullivan Street for the restaurant’s Kickoff to Summer Fundraiser in May.
At the same meeting, Scherrie Carr, organizer for the East Side Home Town Reunion block party, asked to close portions of roads in the area of Mary and Cooper streets, as well as East Charlotte Avenue, for an event in June.
Even though Carr had met all requirements in the city’s current policy, some council members believed that she should also have to satisfy rules that are still being written.
“We are in the process of doing (policy) revisions for street closures and it was my understanding that events of this kind have to be attached to a local business,” said Mayor Lynne Matthews.
City zoning official Lisa Hannon told the City Council that the business proponent was not a rule at the moment.
“We are still working on the revision,” Hannon said. “When we revise the manual and revise the street closure policy (the business proponent) can be added but right now we don’t have rules in place that would prohibit anybody to close the street.”
Carr said she could meet the business requirement, if necessary, even though it wasn’t in the permit application.
“I took every step that was requested of me through this permit so if that would have been the case that I needed a business, anybody (in that area) would have let me use their business.
“I do believe that it is unfair to me because (the rule) hasn’t been implemented yet.”
Vice Mayor Debby Carey agreed.
“I don’t think that’s fair,” Carey said. “To say that because we talked about it a month ago, that somebody who was applying for a permit now would know we were going to put that stipulation on them is really making the playing field unlevel.”
The city’s need for policy changes came to light at the end of 2020 when Harbor Social representatives made a request to shut down part of Sullivan Street for multiple events throughout spring 2021.
As a result, the City Council decided that the new policy would allow each business one street closure request per year and require the event to have an affiliation with a business near the requested roadway, among other changes.
The City Council approved Carr’s event application as it was submitted, dropping the business-association requirement for the June 19 block party.
The City Council did ask Richardson if he had planned any other events that would require street closures, in consideration of their policy revision for one request per year.
Richardson said he usually only has one event a year.
Hannon told the City Council that a revised street closure policy is expected to come before them for discussion at a future meeting in May.