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PHOTO BY PAUL LEACH Hamilton County commissioners, from left, Joe Graham, Warren Mackey and Marty Haynes.
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The renovated Chester Frost Park includes 280 acres of campsites, boat docks, swimming beach, fishing piers,and a pavilliion on Chickamauga Lake.

A proposal to allow limited alcohol sales at some Hamilton County parks has quietly hit a roadblock.

On Wednesday, the Hamilton County Commission could have voted whether to repeal a 1984 restriction on the sale and consumption of alcohol at Chester Frost Park, Riverpark and Enterprise South Nature Park and allow those activities for approved special events.

Instead, the measure died when it failed to generate a second motion or public discussion after Commissioner Joe Graham motioned to vote on the matter.

"I just wanted to get it on the table for an up-or-down vote," Graham said after the meeting.

Hamilton County Administrator of General Services Lee Norris, who presented the idea to commissioners last week, had no comment after the silent response the measure received when it came time to vote.

During the presentation, Norris said stringent regulations governing special alcohol sale permits served as an underlying strength of a process in which an overseeing committee would approve or deny requests for certain events. Norris cited school reunions and wedding receptions as examples of events envisioned by the measure.

"The revenue to be generated by the special event permits and stuff would be additional revenue to the county that I anticipate would be collected back into the park system," Norris said.

Riverbend Executive Director Chip Baker, who attended the meeting, afterward said the lack of action surprised him.

He praised the idea of starting small and building on successes with careful planning, adding that he saw potential for larger events requiring only a portion of a targeted park.

"Beer sales would only be a small percentage of sales, but they are a necessary ingredient for a successful event," Baker said.

He also expressed interest in serving on the proposed special events committee and possibly organizing events at county parks.

Commissioners appear divided on the issue.

Commissioner Warren Mackey said he supports the proposal and would have seconded Graham's motion, but the resolution "passed me too quickly to allow for a vote."

Commissioner Marty Haynes said he did not oppose the measure and likely would have supported it if it had received a second motion.

Commissioner Chairman Chester Bankston and commissioners Tim Boyd and Sabrena Smedley all voiced opposition to the proposal after the meeting. Commissioner Greg Beck spoke out against the plan during Norris' presentation.

Boyd and Smedley said they need better risk/benefit data to support the measure, and all four have cited concerns over the impacts on the parks' family friendly environments.

Commissioners Jim Fields and Randy Fairbanks could not be reached for comment.

Commissioners also voted 8-0 to defer a vote to establish a parks special events committee, which would coordinate alcohol permitting, for 30 days.

Contact staff writer Paul Leach at 423-757-6481 or pleach@timesfreepress.com. Follow on Twitter @pleach_tfp.

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