MILLS RIVER — The town of Mills River will crack down on drunkenness, disorderly conduct, advertising, unlawful gunplay, gambling and even dog poop when it officially opens its new park in June. But it won't try to stop people from making political speeches.
Town Board members spent 2½ hours on Thursday going line by line through a six-page draft ordinance regulated conduct and fees in the park. But the town's proposal to make it unlawful for anyone "to make political speeches of any kind or advertise political stances" didn't survive legal scrutiny.
"You have the right to control somebody coming into the park to advertise their yard sale but when you try to make a rule prohibiting political speech of any kind you've got serious First Amendment problems," town attorney Sharon Alexander told the Town Council. "I don't think it's enforceable."
The political speech regulation didn't survive but the board did hammer out rules on renting shelters, holding events, skates, rollerblades and skateboards, advertising, weapons, guns and fireworks, gas grills and dogs on leashes.
Town manager Jaime Laughter, parks coordinator Pat Christie and Alexander will bring back a completed ordinance for the Town Board, which plans to have the rules in place for the park grand opening on June 22.
The 50-acre site off N.C. 191 includes the Town Hall, town library and commons, the dog park, walking trails and open park land. The town covered half the cost of the $1 million and a state Parks and Recreation Trust Fund grant covered the rest.
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