Bath council OKs 1st pass at mass gathering rule

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BATH — The City Council on Wednesday gave unanimous, preliminary approval to a mass gathering ordinance.

Most communities of Bath’s size have such an ordinance, City Manager Bill Giroux told the council. The rule, scheduled for final passage next month, is geared toward situations where someone wants to have “a significant-sized event in the city, on city property or on a city street,” he noted.

The ordinance provides a review process and set of standards applicants must meet in order to receive a permit.

A BikeMaine event that took place in Bath in September 2014, drawing hundreds of bicyclists on their way across the state, triggered the ordinance, which is intended to permit safe mass gatherings while protecting public health and safety.

While city staff have said the bike-tour event went well, it made them realize Bath needed a set of guidelines for such events, as well as those who want to hold a large gathering.

The council held a workshop on a draft mass gathering ordinance Feb. 17.

In a Feb. 2 memorandum to city staff, City Solicitor Roger Therriault defined a mass gathering as at least 50 people, but noted that school and governmental agency events, and the city’s annual Heritage Days parade, would be exclusions, along with meetings on private property.

Applications would have to be submitted to the police chief at least one week before the event. Requirements would include access to traffic control, water supply and sanitation facilities, and refuse disposal. Restrictions would apply on the time of the event and sound levels, and licenses would be required for food or alcoholic beverages.

Event operators would also have to provide liability insurance, identify the city as an additional insured party, and would be liable for expenses the city incurred for the gathering.

The City Council also unanimously gave first passage to an ordinance amendment concerning the use of alcohol at Library and Waterfront parks. While alcohol is banned from those places, “(s)cheduled events as may be permitted by the City … may allow the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages in connection with that event,” the amendment states.

The permitting process for such an event will include a mass gathering permit application, no matter how many participants are expected.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.