TRAVERSE CITY — Tourism and festival proponents may lose the first go-round with neighborhood residents who want to cap the number of summer events at the Open Space.
City commissioners on Monday will take up a committee’s recommendation to revamp city parks policy and limit at four the number of festivals in June, July, and August at the Open Space.
The National Cherry Festival and Traverse City Film Festival would be allowed under the cap, as well as one event in June and one in August. The policy also would ban events at the Open Space on Memorial Day and Labor Day. The commission meets Monday at 7 p.m. in the Governmental Center.
“This gets directly to the whole issue of festival fatigue that we heard about from the residents,” said Commissioner Ross Richardson, who chaired the committee. “People who were complaining about the festivals were complaining about how many there were, how cheaply they were being offered, and the noise.
“This is a reduction of one festival from what we had last year, and that seemed like a reasonable starting point,” he said.
Commissioner Gary Howe opposed the recommendation. He maintains residents’ concerns are about access to the Open Space, not the number of festivals. He wants to do more to limit the amount of space that festivals use, and better manage festival sprawl.
“I think a lot of them don’t need the footprint they use,” Howe said. “It’s a lot of clutter on the Open Space.”
Central Neighborhood resident Karen Anderson said festival promoters have monopolized the Open Space and the city commission must protect the park’s primary purpose as passive recreation.
“If you go down there, it’s usually mayhem, and it’s not an open, quiet, scenic green space,” Anderson said. “It’s full of music and vendors and people.”
But Oak Park neighborhood resident Andrew McFarlane said four festivals is too few. The city needs to remain open to the creation of festivals that help celebrate the region and its growing reputation as a food and culinary destination, he said.
“These festivals have significant impact,” McFarlane said. “When we deal with the most important industry in our economy, we need to be careful how we treat it.”
McFarlane may be disappointed because it appears the recommendation will garner a four-vote majority.
“Everyone can’t have everything,” said Commissioner Jim Carruthers, who expects to support the recommendation. “The festival people have to compromise. We want to be able to have festivals but also have quiet time throughout the summer.”
The commission also is expected to lift its temporary moratorium on festivals. The vote won’t have any affect on the Open Space during the summer months, but does create more festival opportunities in the spring and fall.
The policy review committee will also meet on Monday at 1 p.m. in the Governmental Center to begin its discussion of fees, including issues of trash and festival management, Richardson said. He expects the fee topic to require several meetings before a recommendation is reached. The committee then will tackle festival noise concerns.