Daily Egyptian

Carbondale city council discusses accommodations, booze control, in preparations for solar eclipse event

By Bill Lukitsch

The Carbondale City Council discussed on Tuesday night a series of proposals to prepare for the total solar eclipse expected to bring tens of thousands of people to the area in August.

The first of those proposals was an amendment to the city’s housing codes to allow residents to rent property as vacation rentals for a period of one to 29 days. Those changes would regulate and tax the use of services offered through companies like Airbnb, an application that allows homeowners to rent temporary living space to other users at discounted rates.

A first draft of the ordinance was brought to the council following a report from the city’s planning commission that indicated a need to fast track regulations for the Aug. 21 event, when the crossroads of the first total solar eclipse over the U.S. since 1979 will be located just a few miles south of Carbondale.

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In December, city officials spoke of the proposal as a potential source of revenue for landowners and the city, should the changes go through. Councilman Tom Grant also noted a disparity between the projected number of people to arrive and the number of area hotels, saying the city should make the necessary changes to accommodate the visitors.

Another proposed resolution would open up three of the city’s parks for camping during the eclipse event, a practice currently not allowed under city ordinance.

Kathy Renfro, executive director of the city’s parks department, told the council that the SuperBlock is being considered as a site for recreational vehicles but that it’s “still kind of questionable.” She added that Evergreen Park and Parrish Park would be reserved for tents and would be fitted with portable toilets and showers during the time allotted for stay.

Also discussed was a proposal to allow the city manager to establish no parking zones in the city during special events, which was referenced as a necessity amid the impending influx of vehicles from outside the region.

Housing and traffic appear to be of primary concern as an estimated 50,000 people the city expects to attend the astronomical event. But city officials also spent time mulling over a temporary change in regulations to allow bar patrons to carry alcoholic beverages in a designated area of Carbondale’s downtown.

If approved, bars could sell drinks in plastic cups to visitors through the weekend to emulate a “festival-like” atmosphere.

Councilman Adam Loos even floated the idea of allowing alcohol to be carried from bar to bar indefinitely.

The logistics of allowing alcoholic beverages to roam about were met with slight discord, as council members talked about whether the zone should be expanded and how its parameters should be indicated to visitors. But council members ultimately indicated support of the measure and called for continued discussion at the next meeting on Jan. 24.

“I understand we’re doing this for now (but) maybe we should consider this as a trial-run for a permanent change,” Loos said.

Campus editor Bill Lukitsch can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @lukitsbill.

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