Lewiston city councilors gave initial approval Monday to a second set of proposed changes to city code regarding parades and public assemblies that would only require permits if an event closes a public street or sidewalk.

“This is so Public Works can handle and reroute traffic, ensure pedestrian access on sidewalks, make sure emergency services are able to respond and access the area, that sort of thing,” Assistant City Attorney Kayla Hermann told councilors.

Councilors approved the first set of changes earlier this year that established new rules for parades, including fees for permit applications. The issue arose last year following “spontaneous” protests regarding issues like face masks. At the time, Hermann said the intent was to exempt such spontaneous demonstrations of political speech from city permit requirements.

But some councilors objected to the terms “parades” and “public assemblies” being in the same category, since parades are not typically political in nature and almost always require road closures, so they were separated into different sets of code changes. The new amendments to existing city code that councilors considered Monday night dealt with public assemblies.

In addition to requiring a public assembly permit only if sidewalks or streets must be closed, the proposed changes would add a section for “spontaneous events” that arise out of emerging or breaking news. Such gatherings would not require a permit. There is also a requirement for a written notice and traffic control plan if a public assembly won’t require a street or sidewalk closure, but still cause traffic disruptions.

There are exceptions to that notification requirement for yard sales, garage sales or spontaneous events. The proposal also only requires applicants to carry insurance if a permit is required. Councilor John Bradbury said he would have objected to this provision, but said he would vote in favor since there are exceptions that remove that requirement if insurance is not available or the applicant is unable to afford the cost.

Councilors voted 6-0-1 to approve the first reading of the ordinance that would create the code revisions, with Councilor Cari Miller absent. The council must approve two more readings before the changes can be considered for final adoption.

Mills may be contacted at jmills@lmtribune.com or at (208) 310-1901, ext. 2266.