This month, Hopewell Township discussed a possible amendment to a Township ordinance, allowing alcohol in community parks for special events.
Currently, the Township explicitly prohibits alcohol consumption in Township parks. To make any functional changes, the Township would change the ordinance to permit consumption only, whereas sale of alcohol requires approves from the State of New Jersey.
In the work session (the “beginning discussion” without official action) at the May 14, 2018 Hopewell Township Committee meeting, Committee member Kristin McLaughlin, the representative on the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee, introduced the concept and shared her observation that the Township is “looking to broaden the appeal for community events… bring people together and out of their homes, and bring in a little revenue [for the Township].”
The Committee appeared to be in agreement that this amendment would apply only to Woolsey Park, on Washington Crossing-Pennington Road, a park meant to be the center of the community, explained McLauglin.
Township Committee attorney, Steve Goodell, presented examples of surrounding municipalities that allow alcohol consumption in a park or parks including Princeton, Robbinsville, and West Windsor.
“There are lots of municipalities that allow it to varying extents,” said Goodell, who cited the Essex County application, remarking that it “asks almost every question you would want the answer to and then has a good waiver and release.” Goodell also explained that Mercer County Park generally prohibits alcohol consumption at events, but a park permit may be obtained for special events.
The amendment would require a 1-2 line addition with specific parameters such as the particular park (in this case, Woolsey Park), number of events per year, the time of year permissible, and for specific purposes so as to avoid an “arbitrary and capricious” review process, according to Goodell. The procedure for making such a change is the same as amending any ordinance and there will be a first reading, publication, and public hearing.
Mayor Kevin Kuchinski suggested that the change not need to be the final decision but that the Township could potentially approve one event and then get feedback on that.
All Committee members expressed interest, provided that the acohol be limited to wine and beer but not distilled spirits, and agree to explore this avenue further.
Additionally, the Township is discussing issuing an additional alcohol retail distribution license, which is permitted based on statutory regulations based on population.
Mayor Kuchinski explained that a retail distribution license is one that permits the sale but not onsite consumption — described as a “wine and beer store” — to bring more revenue to the Township. Licenses are statutorily set based on population with one retail license permissible for every 7500 residents. The Committee discussed that the next steps would be to explore the minimum price to determine whether this is something the Committee would like to consider.