Flower Mound Councilman Jim Pierson said he’s done with COVID-19.
Judging by the number of organizations seeking permission to host outdoor events, many others are as well.
Now the town is working on a way to allow for outdoor events to take place but in a safe manner.
Tuesday night the Town Council directed the staff to pursue a system in which a committee reviews requests for outdoor gatherings and works with the organizers to create a safe plan for the event. If recommended by the committee, Mayor Steve Dixon could administratively approve the event.
On July 2 Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order mandating that no more than 10 people can participate in an outdoor gathering unless approved by that municipality’s mayor.
Andrea Roy, director of economic development, said since the order was put in place a number of requests have come to the town for special events, especially recently.
Dixon has not granted any exceptions so far.
“There are minimum protocols for outdoor gatherings that the state put out,” Roy said. “Our in-house staff is capable of looking at that, working with the event folks to work toward a safe plan with everyone fully aware of what we’re doing and what they’re doing.”
If the committee considers an event, factors taken into account will include number of attendees, likelihood of attendees over the age of 65, the density of the forum, ability to ensure social distancing of 6 feet and the level of transmission in the county, all of which came from the governor’s minimum protocol.
Some of the events that have been requested but are on hold include the third annual Lakeside 5K to benefit Ally’s Wish and the River Walk Art and Food Festival, both in October. The Caveman Triathlon is also on hold, but the date is in flux.
Roy said the Flower Mound Pumpkin Patch organizers have inquired about having their annual event, as has the Flower Mound Chamber of Commerce for its annual Fiesta event.
Roy said those events could still happen in 2020 if organizers and the committee together can come up with a safety plan.
Roy also noted upcoming events that are set to take place and don’t require a special event permit. Those include the Cross Timbers Rotary Duck Derby, which will have a different format to limit public gatherings.
Keep Flower Mound Beautiful’s Fall Trash Bash is still planned but will have a drop-off format and not a festival.
Roy said the committee approach is similar to what the city of McKinney does. There, a special event committee determines large gathering requests and makes recommendations to the mayor.
She said McKinney, like other cities, has gotten creative in how it allows outdoor gatherings. It has held various drive-in concerts, along with certain races with modifications. But she said no large gatherings have taken place.
“Cities are getting creative,” Roy said. “That’s why we wanted to take a look at this.”
Council members supported allowing outdoor events, adding that the setting has to be taken into consideration.
“Is COVID-19 a virus we can all catch? Yes,” Mayor Pro Tem Claudio Forest said. “It’s out there, there’s no denying it. But is it as pervasive and as much of a problem at an outdoor event where people are outdoor running in a race? Does it matter if it’s 50 people or 150 people running down the streets? I don’t see it. If everybody’s outside and has protective gear on, if someone doesn’t want to run the race they shouldn’t do it.”
Pierson said while government has the responsibility of protecting the health and safety of the community, “that doesn’t include necessarily protecting us from getting exposed to something that we can do ourselves.”
“If we’re really worried about it, don’t go,” Pierson said.
Roy added that getting the support of Denton County health officials on the committee plan isn’t likely.
She said health officials have been concerned about the number of people who don’t wear face masks at events elsewhere.
“In my conversations with Denton County health officials, they have remained consistent in that they don’t support large gatherings,” Roy said.