Prairie Village holiday lighting luminary Mike Babick may have a fight on his hands if he wants to keep operating his popular display in the same manner in which it’s been run the past several years.
The Prairie Village City Council on Monday directed city staff to draft a new ordinance that would regulate “neighborhood attractions,” requiring special use permits for anyone hosting an event or attraction that could cause traffic congestion or be “disruptive, obnoxious (aesthetics), unsafe or inappropriate given site conditions…” The council expects to vote on an ordinance later this summer after city staff present them with draft language.
The motion came nearly a year after City Councilors Michael Kelly and Andrew Wang were tasked with developing potential solutions to the situation on Falmouth Street, which pits those who love the tradition of visiting Babick’s display every year against homeowners who have to deal with a month of heavy traffic and loud crowds.
“What we’ve been looking at is how do we maintain quality of life for everyone in the neighborhood — whether it’s the person having an event or the person living next to them,” Kelly said.
Kelly and Wang reported Monday that they’d held several meetings with city staff since December exploring options for addressing the issue. Kelly pointed out that several cities, including Mission Hills, have “quality of life” ordinances that allow the city to regulate noise and traffic. A memo distributed to the council outlines the broadstrokes of such an ordinance, defining a neighborhood attraction as “[a] prolonged or repeated display or event, which attracts a large volume of people and/or vehicles to a residential area.”
The memo notes that to get a permit, an attraction “shall not impair the usefulness, enjoyment or value of adjacent property due to the generation of excessive noise, smoke, odor, glare, litter or visual pollution,” among other requirements.
Kelly noted that any ordinance approved by the city would have to include a provision allowing neighborhoods to waive the restrictions.
“If neighborhood is on board with the event, we don’t want to interrupt that,” Kelly said.
Though the council voted unanimously (minus David Belz, who was absent) to move forward with drafting an ordinance, several noted that putting such an ordinance into law could raise significant legal issues.
“Not everyone is going to be happily compliant,” said Councilor David Morrison. “It could potentially be a legal mine field.”