TRAVERSE CITY — Lou Colombo applied with the city to reserve the Open Space for 11 weekends next summer to host a non-event he’s dubbed “The Quiet Space Festival 2014.”
Colombo recently filed applications with the city parks and recreation department for low-impact events on every summer weekend other than those used by the National Cherry Festival and the Traverse City Film Festival.
His goal: head off the growing use of the city’s Open Space as a festival venue.
A festival event commandeered the Open Space every other weekend from the beginning of August through this weekend’s Taste of Traverse.
Quiet Space 2014 will feature nothing, if Columbo has his way.
“They asked about the expected number of attendees and I put down zero,” Colombo said.
Colombo estimated it would cost him almost $5,000 to block out the Open Space for all 11 weekends, based on what the Bayside Festival paid for a five-day use, including setup, over the Labor Day weekend. Colombo brought his checkbook with him when he filed the applications, but city staff declined to take his money, he said.
“The whole thing is we pay taxes to have that Open Space available and then they give it away for a paltry sum,” Colombo said. “The summer is too short.”
Colombo’s actual bill should be a lot less because his festival doesn’t do anything. It qualifies as a low-impact event and at most will cost just $15 a day, or $330 for 11 weekends. Colombo’s application likely was too late to block one reservation. Sam Porter of Porterhouse Productions filed his reservation to repeat the combined Paella in the Park and Great Wakes Festival in 2014.
Both men filed their reservations on Sept. 11.
Colombo accepts he may be too late to block Porter, but that should be the only competitor to his Quiet Space events.
“What I don’t want them to do is come back and say we are going to have these five festivals and you can have the rest,” Colombo said. “I’m not going to go for that.”
City staffers haven’t yet ruled on Colombo’s application. City Clerk Benjamin Marentette said the application may be technically correct, but doesn’t follow the intent of the park use policy.
“We certainly understand there is frustration from people with the frequency of events at the Open Space,” Marentette said. “But the intent of the policy was not to have someone reserving and blocking off a significant number of dates to prevent other uses.”
The city’s park use policy requires the city to accept reservations on a first-come, first-served basis. The city could still deny Colombo because he’s not doing anything, so the city staff could rule he doesn’t need a reservation.
City commissioners acknowledged Colombo is not alone in voicing festival fatigue. They’ll revisit the city’s parks-use policy on Sept. 23.
Noise, trash, cost and event frequency are the most common complaints, Mayor Michael Estes said. His proposal: lower the allowed noise level; require festival promoters to be responsible for trash beyond their reserved area, and ban festivals on Labor Day, Memorial Day, and the Fourth of July.
Estes agrees the rental rates for the Open Space are too cheap, but the commission didn’t get any support last year from the public when they proposed fees almost double the current rate.
Eliminating the Fourth of July would have the greatest impact on the National Cherry Festival, which traditionally starts the first full weekend in July. It wouldn’t impact the festival in 2014, but would push the festival back a week for the next several years.
“They’ll have to work around it,” Estes said. “They are very enterprising people, and they will figure out how to do it.”
Trevor Tkach, Cherry Festival executive director, said it’s too early to comment on Estes’ proposals, but he plans to attend the Sept. 23 meeting.
“I think it’s important we hear from all of the stakeholders and hear what the community has to say and find out exactly what the concerns are,” Tkach said.