Denton City Council members said Tuesday they wanted more public feedback before considering any changes to the city’s naming policy or naming of city facilities.
The first opportunity for the public to weigh in will be this coming Tuesday, when the City Council is tentatively scheduled to hold a public hearing on the city’s 7-year-old policy.
Earlier this year, the parks department drafted suggested amendments. The main purpose was to formalize the naming process and make sure the City Council had an opportunity to review an application before the naming of a public building or other facility became final. Council members had sought the changes, but when it came time to vote on them in June, they postponed a decision.
City Parks Director Gary Packan told council members that his department hasn’t proposed any new language for the policy and instead has been gathering feedback, including hearing concerns during a recent Denia Area Community Group meeting.
He said he was aware of the speculation that there were potential donors waiting in the wings, such as a corporate donor interested in purchasing the naming rights for the city’s new dog park in North Lakes Park.
“There’s a perception that they [businesses] are beating down the door, but that’s not the case,” Packan said. “The new Lone Star Toyota of Lewisville Railroad Park — you don’t see a lot of that. You have to work for it, or get lucky.”
Council member Deb Armintor said she wouldn’t want such a naming for Denton.
The current policy does not include naming streets or police and fire stations. But any other city land, facility or building could be named to honor an individual or organization or by purchasing the naming rights.
To honor an individual or group, the current city policy requires that the person be a resident of good moral character who made exceptional contributions to the city or country and has been deceased for five years. Naming rights obtained through a donation require that the honoree be an individual of good moral character, or an organization that has complied with laws and regulations.
Council member Paul Meltzer said he was skeptical that the community would embrace purchased naming rights.
“Purchasing of rights feels not very Denton — not very original and independent,” Meltzer said. “I have a feeling it would have to be very big for the community [to accept it] — the ‘No Child Ever Goes Hungry in Denton Whataburger City Hall.’”
Council member Jesse Davis said he wasn’t worried about such a problem, since the City Council would have the final say over a name.
“I don’t think we’re going to see ‘City Hall brought to you by Budweiser,’” Davis said. “I’m more concerned about the perception of this policy. There is a lot of misunderstanding about what it’s for and how it’s used.”
He also didn’t see the city as competing with nonprofits, saying city projects are different.
Davis echoed the comment of several council members that the council needs more public feedback on the policy and suggested that a town hall-style meeting could elicit more of the kinds of information the city needs.
Council member Keely Briggs said she had a lot of concerns about the naming policy, particularly with the prospect that city buildings are included, but she wanted the public to weigh in first.
“I’m looking forward to the public hearing.”