TRAVERSE CITY — Mary Meredith loves her house in the Boardman neighborhood and doesn’t want to move, but that’s what people suggest when she talks about her festival fatigue.
Meredith was among dozens of speakers in an overflow crowd of about 80 people who told city commissioners on Monday they are tired of the noise, the number of festivals, and promoters “hijacking” the Traverse City Open Space for pennies.
“The frequency of festivals is getting out of hand,” Meredith said. “As a city taxpayer we are supporting the parks and so often we can’t even use them.”
Resident Ross Richardson said under the city’s current policy the Open Space could be used for 50 days of festivals including set up and take down days in the roughly 90 days of summer.
“It is called the Open Space, not the festival grounds,” Richardson said.
Several speakers complained about the modest cost for festival promoters to lease the Open Space, which they called the most beautiful and valuable piece of property in the state. Other residents said they don’t need to buy tickets for festival concerts at the Open Space because the concert noise comes to them.
“Less noise, less frequency, and higher rates; That’s the (concensus) of the community,” Commissioner Mike Gillman said. “And each of those subjects deserves discussion on their own.”
Commissioners agreed they have too many events at the Open Space but showed no indication they plan any type of total festival ban. Staff recommended the city limit the Open Space to one additional festival in June and one in August besides the National Cherry Festival and the Traverse City Film Festival, which operate under separate contracts with the city. The commission also discussed festival bans on summer holiday weekends.
A few residents spoke in favor of the festivals for both their economic boost to the community and as an attraction for younger adults. They found one supporter on the commission.
“We’ve worked to bring young people back to this town and we need to give these festivals a chance to grow and earn their reputation,” said Commissioner Jim Carruthers.
No votes were taken at the meeting because it was a study item on the agenda. Commissioners did say they want to adopt a moratorium on any high impact festivals for the Open Space until they adopt a new policy.
The commission directed city staff to come back with recommendations at future meetings and instructed them to publicize those recommendations so commissioners can get resident feedback on the ideas. No date was set.