By Dedra Cordle
Nikky Ziglar-Zimmerman says some of her fondest childhood memories were made during the block parties that were thrown within the village of Urbancrest.
Although she admits that many of the people in attendance had some kind of familial connection, she explained that it was not their blood relation that made the event so special for those involved.
“It was because of the sense of community,” she said. “As a community, we did a lot of things together back then but we haven’t done that in God knows how many years.”
She said she would love to see the village host community events and gatherings in the near future. Her fellow members on the village council shared the same desire when discussing a related topic at its regular meeting on Oct. 11.
As a result, the local governing body has announced designs to form a committee to study the feasibility of hosting events and gatherings for the community. The idea was initially sparked by a property owner who says his request to rent a village amenity was denied.
According to Eric Evans, a former resident of the village, he wanted to host a celebration at the pavilion for family and friends and whoever else wanted to join the festivities.
“I grew up in this community; I love this community,” he said. “And I just wanted to give back in some way.”
He said he envisioned small carnival rides for children and bringing in craft vendors for the adults. Food trucks were also a possibility.
But he says his reservation request was not approved because he does not currently reside in the village. He said he is hoping the village council can come together with the community to allow usage of the facility to non-residents.
Councilwoman Deborah Larkins-Jackson said she was surprised by the denial.
“I was under the impression the pavilion could be rented out at a cost to anybody,” she said.
Mayor Joseph Barnes Sr. said that is not the case per the usage agreements that were signed into legislation by the council years prior.
He said that the council could change the agreement to allow non-residents to have the ability to rent the facilities at a non-resident price like other municipalities do, but he added there are still rules in place regarding what events can be hosted within the village facilities.
“There’s nothing that says that the people in Urbancrest can’t gather at the park and celebrate each other,” said Barnes. “And I have spoken to (Mr. Evans) about that over and over again. But we have rules on the books that says you cannot bring vendors in. You can’t come in and use the park, call it a celebration and sell food.”
He said those same rules are in place to rent the indoor pavilion as well.
“If his aunt (who lives the village) were to come and rent the pavilion so they could have access to it, that would be good,” he said. “But it also states in the rules that you cannot sell any product out of that pavilion.”
Barnes also explained that having individuals or outside groups try to set up carnival rides could put the village in an uncomfortable spot regarding liability.
“It’s an insurance issue and a safety issue,” he said.
Ziglar-Zimmerman asked whether they could issue permits like other cities or municipalities do when an organization wants to host community events. Barnes said they could but added that it was an issue that needed more research by the council.
Larkins-Jackson suggested they reach out to the Grove City Area Chamber of Commerce for guidance. She said she sees no reason why the village could not allow – or even set up their own – arts and music events or other gatherings of that nature.
Law director Rodd Lawrence suggested the council form a committee to brainstorm potential event options and allowances.
“It would allow you to start to look at the different options and decide what it is you want to allow, what it is you want to do, and then we’ll work to get it done,” he said. “But you have to start out with a vision of what your goals and objectives are and then we can work backwards from there and devise a plan to accomplish it.”
Lawrence said he believes the village having the ability to host community events would be “a good thing” for all involved.
“I think the reason all these communities are doing events is two-fold,” he said. “Number one is they generate a lot of community togetherness and neighborliness and all of that, but secondly they make money (for the city or municipality where they are taking place).
“So whatever your motivation is, you certainly can do it, and you’ve got the facilities, and it looks like you’ve got interest so I think it would be a great idea to explore further.”