Fee hikes, fairground concerts face Cumberland Town Council

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CUMBERLAND — Requirements for concerts and parimutuel horse racing independent of the annual county fair are expected to be established for the Cumberland Fairgrounds after a public hearing Monday, June 22.

Under the newly elected leadership of Chairman Ron Copp, the Town Council will consider those changes, as well as recommendations to increase some town fees.

Copp was elected chairman at a special council meeting this week, with Councilor Shirley Storey-King elected vice chairwoman.

After a Toby Keith concert was briefly proposed for the fairgrounds earlier this year, fairgrounds overseers the Cumberland Farmers Club requested amendments to the fairgrounds overlay district so that neighborhood concerns might be addressed before future proposals come along. A workshop last month brought expected “and totally appropriate” criticisms, Town Manager Bill Shane said, including concerns over traffic, noise, and the crosswalk at the fairgrounds’ main entrance. Other concerns surrounded the frequency of large, non-fair-related concerts.

The Farmers Club hopes to host a limited number of summer, outdoor concerts at the fairgrounds, and proposed ordinance language changes require that those concerts be of the “type, style, and character historically associated” with the annual county fair. No limit on the number of concerts is currently written into the ordinance.

Shane has said that capacity at the fairgrounds is limited by parking, and is estimated at a maximum of 17,000 people.

The club also hopes to add parimutuel horse racing to the allowed fairgrounds uses. Parimutuel betting is a system through which a percentage of bets go to pay administrative, government and horsemen costs while the remaining pool of money is paid out to winning betters.

The council will also take up recommended increases to yard waste facility and victualers license fees. Both were discussed as part of this year’s budget process.

If the first is approved, waste fees will range from $5 to $25 depending on the type of vehicle bringing brush, trees, leaves, grass clippings and other yard waste to the brush dump. In the second, restaurants would see their license fees double from $50 to $100 per year, while grocery stores, delis, markets, bakeries and eating and lodging establishments would see their fees go from $25 to $100 per year. Vending machines and temporary fair vendor fees will remain at $10 a year.

The increase will help the town cover the cost of inspections, which are budgeted at more than $5,000 annually.

Shane said this week that he expects all three proposals will go through without much trouble, though he does expect to hear some public comment.

In other business, the council will also appoint members to the Village Center Committee and act on a wharfing out permit for a Sturdivant Island resident.

The council will hold a workshop on fee increases at 6 p.m. Monday, followed by the regular meeting at 7 p.m. Both will be held in the Town Council Chambers in Town Hall. The regular meeting will be televised.

Sarah Trent can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 108 or strent@theforecaster.net.