Farmington officials hold tight on park rentals

Farmington officials decided on Monday to continue a ban on facility rentals and allowing special events on city property, but some raised questions about the delay.

City Manager David Murphy recommended extending the ban and taking another look at the August 18 meeting. Rentals have not been allowed this season due to the COVID-19 pandemic and state-imposed limits on outdoor gatherings.

A June Executive Order allows gatherings of up to 100 people outdoors, with social distancing. Officials last discussed the events policy on June 1.

“The reasons then are the same now… We do not have the personnel to ensure social distancing is being observed,” Murphy said.

While the City of Farmington Hills is renting picnic shelters, he added, they hold no more than 50 people, and park rangers and other personnel are available to monitor gatherings and sanitize facilities. Murphy said with numbers rising again, other cities and groups are canceling events into October.

“It’s happening all across the state and all across the country,” he said.

Mayor Pro Tem Joe LaRussa questioned allowing businesses expand into the parking lots but not allowing people to use city parks. Mayor Sara Bowman clarified that parks are open and people can use the pavilions.

“We’re just talking about renting them out for parties,” she said. “Everything’s open and available.”

So far, all 2020 rentals and events approved have been cancelled with refunds issued. The only event still on the schedule is VegFest, slated September 13 at the Walter Sundquist Farmington Pavilion and Riley Park.

Council member Steven Schneemann asked Murphy to keep tabs on what other cities are doing. He pointed to a recent DDA (Downtown Development Authority) initiative to create “social districts” – outdoor areas where restaurant and bar customers can consume alcohol – as “a proactive measure to try to bring our community back together again in ways that are safe.”

“Those are the kinds of things that are positive, that are forward looking, and I would really like, as much as possible, our administration to be thinking more along those same lines… finding ways to bring some hope back to citizens of Farmington,” he said.

Bowman said she manages an office with 75 people with 75 different levels of caution about leaving their homes for work.

“I really am erring on the side of caution, only because everyone is worried about different things,” Bowman said. “I’m not comfortable yet reopening our parks to residents for rental opportunities.”

“I want to say yes whenever we can,” council member Maria Taylor said, adding she supports creative solutions. “I don’t want to give the impression that Farmington is open for large gatherings. I would hate to have big groups of people coming in and inadvertently getting Farmingtonians sick.” 

Watch the full conversation here: farmgov.com/City-Services/Government/Agendas-and-Minutes/City-Council/2020.aspx

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