TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) - The "Footloose" references continue to dance across the headlines in Terre Haute. Now city leaders say they may make some changes the dance permit ordinance.
The Terre Haute City Council met Thursday night. The ordinance was not on the agenda but the topic still took up an hour of the meeting with public comment.
Birthday boy Tommy Williams asks, "Why should I have to pay for a ticket when I'm on my own property?"
We first told you about Williams last week. He claims he was having a birthday barbecue when the police issued his wife a ticket for not having a dance permit. He is now fighting that ticket in court.
Terre Haute Police Chief John Plasse and Sergeant Denzil Lewis were also at the meeting to address the council and the public. Chief Plasse once again declined to comment on Williams' case because it has not yet been settled.
Chief Plasse and Sergeant Lewis did reiterate why the ordinance was first passed and how people are cited. Plasse says there were several shootings at the start of the school year. He says this ordinance is used as a proactive tool to deter violence by shutting down parties before things get out of hand. Lewis claims many of the parties are hosted by people from out of town who rent empty homes and charge people to attend. Plasse adds the ordinance was modeled after Indianapolis and Bloomington ordinances.
Chief Plasse says, "I can bet you, had we not stepped up those efforts, someone else would have got shot, someone probably would have got killed."
Willams is not alone in his confusion and frustration with the ordinance.
James Taylor says, "I understood that a year ago but people that are paying their taxes here in the city of Terre Haute should not be penalized for people who come from out of town having events."
Mary Howard Hamilton says, "Every week we encountered difficulty. Insurance issues. Type of music. Number of security that needed to be there. We had to triple the security and we didn't have any problems. Unfortunately, with all the roadblocks, we didn't have a very successful block party."
Another person asks, "For the Blues Fest, do I need a dance ordinance for it? I don't know. I mean the statement is if people are gathering with the intention of dance. Well, yeah, I want people to dance at the Blues Fest."
Many council members spoke about the ordinance.
District 4 Councilman Todd Nation says, "It was not our intention to make you pay to go get a dance permit. To me, this sounds like a training issue with the police department and I agree that we obviously need to tweak this ordinance."
Councilman Karrum Nasser asked Chief Plasse a series of questions about the ordinance and who needs a permit. Plasse answered saying as long as the event is private and admission is not being charged a person does not need a permit. City attorney Eddie Felling also chimed in adding a person cannot advertise either.
Sergeant Lewis says there have been thirty-four citations issued so far and only one person was a repeat offender. He adds all of the tickets have been issued after calls for service. An example of that would be someone calling the police to make a noise complaint.
Felling says he is already working on language to amend the ordinance. This would include changing the name from dance permit to something like event permit. He hopes to have something ready for the council to discuss at the next meeting.
You can see the city code (Sec. 4-310) here.
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