Before a proposed new dog park agenda item was even introduced during the Mesquite City Council meeting Tuesday, June 28, most of the officials on the dais weighed in on the issue during mayor and council comments.
And it was soon apparent that there was more to it than just chain link fence and dog poop for a
a large portion of the Redd Hills Park located on Fountain View Lane and Redd Hills Parkway where the city proposed to convert an open space to four areas of fenced facilities for off-leash dog runs.
Mayor Al Litman took the first shot at what he and others considered racist and offensive remarks. “Some people who live near the park think it’s a private park. It’s been openly stated or alluded to that minorities are not wanted in Redd Hills Park and Sun City residents are not wanted in this park. I heard this myself. This is not what Mesquite is all about folks. There’s no room for hate here. There’s no room for discrimination in Mesquite. We can solve this problem.”
Councilors George Rapson, Kraig Hafen, Rich Green and Cindi Delaney all agreed with Litman’s comments about the remarks previously made by residents who lived near the park.
“I am not in favor of dog parks at any public park. Two of our employees heard racist remarks. They happen to be Hispanic. It was offensive. And I, by God, will not tolerate that,” Rapson said. “Several people have the notion that this is not a public park. It is a city public park. I am offended by the notion that you think you acquired the rights to a park that’s paid for by the general population. This has nothing to do with dog parks. This has everything to do with the city of Mesquite.”
Hafen complimented city staff who he said “were just trying to solve a problem. This is not about the north side or the south side. This is about Mesquite. We get the message that you don’t want the dog park.”
“I’m offended when anyone says the things I’ve been told were said to a Hispanic member of our community. It was uncalled for. We’ll look at other places for a dog park that are more convenient and on the north side,” Delaney said.
When the council officially took up the agenda item, several residents made comments both pro and con for the dog park. In the end, the council voted unanimously to not fence in the park and to consider alternative sites for an enclosed dog park.
Consideration of introducing an amendment to city code that would institute a three percent liquor license fee was almost as short-lived. Mayor Litman had worked for months to replace semiannual license fees paid by each business that sells liquor with a gross sales fee based on actual sales.
Litman justified the idea by saying that “the city has struggled in recent years to balance the budget and still maintain acceptable levels of municipal services to its residents. To this end, the city is exploring any and all methods of reducing costs and raising revenues.”
However, the council had much different ideas.
“Fundamentally, I’m against any tax increase,” Rapson said. “I did say previously that I would support a tax increase if it was set up for a specific purpose.” He added that after discussions with business owners who sell liquor “I think it will have a detrimental effect. I’m inclined to agree that this is not the time to raise taxes of any kind. That it’s presumably directed to out-of-towners is irrelevant. People who live here and drink can’t go anywhere else to buy liquor. We’re stuck.”
Hafen said the retailers “know their business. We want them to be successful. We talk about being business friendly but this could be a game-changer. I have a problem with the concept that we need to go find money. If we’re going to be business friendly, then let’s be. This is nothing more than a tax.”
“When we first started discussing this it was a simple tax. We found out we couldn’t impose an excise tax. When it seemed like it wasn’t going to hurt businesses, I was for it. I don’t think a three percent or five percent tax is going to dissuade people from buying alcohol. It’s not as simple as it used to be. I’m not in favor of it any longer,” Delaney said. “We just balanced the budget. The economy has turned around and things are looking better. In the mode of being business friendly we shouldn’t do it. Maybe in the future we could consider a property tax that would spread it out more to everybody.”
Rapson and Hafen immediately jumped in with both saying “it’s not me that wants a property tax.”
The council voted unanimously to not introduce the code amendment thus killing the liquor tax altogether.
In another unanimous vote, the council approved in full a request by 333 Eagles Landing for three variances to the city sign code. Because of topographical obstructions near I-15 Exit 118, the group that is purchasing 105 acres of city-owned property wanted 100-foot-high signs with 1.5 square feet of advertising per linear foot of street frontage instead of the required 0.5 square feet. They also asked for a variance that would allow a 100-foot flag pole with a 30 by 60-foot American flag.
Development Services Director Richard Secrist recommended only allowing 1.0 square feet per linear foot of advertising signs and restricting the flag pole to 50 feet.
Citing the need to help Eagles Landing and future businesses succeed, the council granted the full variances requested.