By MARIA D. JAMES — Increased demand for use of the city’s public meeting spaces and requests for special event street closures prompted the city to review policies during the Feb. 20 city council meeting. City Administrator Tracey Nicholson presented an overview of the policy for reserving public meeting space at the Municipal Building. She also shared the policy for special event street closures, which was updated last summer.
“The room reservation policy has been in effect since 2016, so that one we’ve had for a little while,” said Nicholson. “Now for the special event and street closure policy, we recognized just recently that we really needed a policy because we were getting more and more requests for support from the community to close roads,” said Nicholson.
Nicholson stated that the policies were developed to establish standards and provide residents with information. Interested in reserving space or applying for a street closure? Here’s what you need to know:
Requests for Public Meeting Space
The Hyattsville Municipal Building has two rooms that residents can reserve for public meetings: a multipurpose room on the first floor, which can hold up to 160 people; and the Prangley Room on the second floor, which can accommodate up to 110.
Both rooms are in great demand. Community Services Director and Public Information Officer Jake Rollow says, “Typically the rooms are reserved the majority of weekday evenings, and by multiple groups at different time slots on both weekend days.”
According to the room reservation policy, the rooms are available to support city residents and community-oriented public service organizations that strengthen the community. The goal of the policy is to ensure that the rooms are used for these purposes, and that they are kept clean and accessible.
Reservations are granted based on these priorities: 1. City events; 2. City-sponsored events that have been approved by the city council; 3. Hyattsville organizations and resident-group events.
The rooms can only used for the meetings, activities and celebrations of Hyattsville community-oriented public service organizations and resident groups in which at least half of all members are city residents, and which are not organized primarily for profit. Proof of residency may be required. Eager to host a social event or religious service? Unfortunately, the rooms can not be used for those purposes. The spaces are not available for partisan or campaign-related events (except for a candidate’s forum for city elections, if the event is conducted by a neutral community-oriented public service organization), religious worship/services or individual/family social celebrations (birthday parties, baby and bridal showers, wedding receptions and holiday parties, etc.).
Rentals are free of charge, though reservations require a $50 deposit. The deposit will be applied to cleaning or repairs if the room is left dirty or damaged. Cancellations must be made at least seven days in advance, and, if a reservation is cancelled, the city will retain $10 of the deposit (if the cancellation is due to an emergency, the full deposit will be refunded). Reservations are subject to cancellation at any time by the city. The city will always attempt to seek alternatives before cancelling a public reservation, including relocating the event or finding a suitable alternate date.
Room reservations may be made up to four months in advance.
Requests for Street Closures
Last year, the city received 18 requests for block party street closures, which was an increase from nine requests in 2016. This increase lead the city to update the related policy.
“The street closure policy was updated last summer (July 2017), in part because the city was receiving requests for non-block-party street closures, which were not specifically addressed in the previous policy,” said Rollow.
According to Rollow, most of the non-block-party street closure events in the last few years were co-sponsored by the city and did not require permits. “Events that are not city partnerships would apply through these policies and, after staff review, could be granted a street closure permit, granted a permit with fees changed for city services (for example, continuous police presence), or denied a permit,” he wrote.
The policy states its purpose is “to encourage and support neighborhood and community events by clarifying the process for requesting special events requiring street closures.” The policy defines events that will be considered for street closures, including neighborhood block parties and parades and processions. Not all streets in the city can be blocked off, though, including arteries used for emergency access. Other streets are under the jurisdiction of State Highway Administration or Prince George’s County Department of Public Works and Transportation, or may be privately owned, and the city does not have the authority to close these streets. Special events not requiring a permit include public events hosted by the City of Hyattsville, events that are part of city contracts and funeral processions conducted by a licensed mortuary.
The approval process for street closures is twofold. According to the policy, if a special-event street closure would impact home access, the application must be accompanied by a petition showing approval by residents on the block. (A neighborhood block party requires 51 percent approval; special events, parade/procession require 75 percent approval.) The chief of police and a designee review all applications. Requests for street closure should be submitted as far in advance as possible.
For more information on these policies or to make a reservation, contact the Hyattsville Administrative Office city clerk, 4310 Gallatin Street, Third floor, Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. or call 301.985.5000.