BY BRIAN McGILLIVARY
TRAVERSE CITY — City commissioners will discuss creating a policy to limit the number of events on public land and require permit fees from $15 to more than $1,700.
The commission will meet today at 7 p.m. in a study session to discuss a policy that requires a permit to hold a family reunion, but mainly exempts the city's two largest events, the National Cherry Festival and Traverse City Film Festival, from the new rules.
Those festivals already have to negotiate detailed contracts and cover the city's expenses while other events don't cover the city's costs, officials said.
"We don't have a permit system with a fee structure right now, and that's part of the problem," said Commissioner Jim Carruthers. "The city parks department gets a request to do something, and they say go ahead."
The proposed policy divides events into high and low impact. High impact events sell merchandise, sell alcohol, have significant infrastructure, or require city staffing during the event.
Such events would be charged a fee ranging from $135 the first day and $100 for each
additional day for a charitable nonprofit up to $1,730 for the first day and $865 for each additional day when the event is staged by a for-profit organization.
For-profit event organizers who partner with a nonprofit can only obtain the nonprofit rate if the charity receives a "substantial" portion of the profits. The city clerk's office would determine what's "substantial."
"It's something to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis," said city Clerk Benjamin Marentette. "Ultimately, the city's interest ... is that a for-profit isn't just attaching itself to a nonprofit just to get the lesser fee."
Low-impact events, such as weddings, reunions, and school events, would be free unless the event requires city services such as marking irrigation lines for tents or providing extra tables or clean-up. The fee when city services are required is $15 for residents and $25 for non-residents.
Mayor Michael Estes said the proposed fees concern him most. In certain cases he thinks fees might be too high, and in some cases too low. They have also raised objections from the business and tourism interests that opposed any fees.
"Some say we should welcome people for events all the time, but we're not in the business of filling the Open Space with activity every day of the year," Estes said. "We don't want a big tent city in the Open Space. We want to put some time between events and let people truly enjoy the Open Space for what it is."