TRAVERSE CITY — Festival promoters, tourism industry officials, and their supporters put on a show of force that blocked, at least temporarily, city commission action to restrict summer festivals in the downtown.
More than 90 people packed the commission chambers Monday night and not a single soul spoke in favor of higher fees, a stricter noise ordinance, or limits on festival use of the Open Space. About 18 people spoke at the meeting and 75 percent of them had direct ties to festivals or the tourism industry. They focused on the importance of festivals to growing tourism and the economic impact of tourism on the wider region.
“We need to continue offering as many festivals as we can,” said Doug Dornbos, owner of Cherry Capital Cabs, speaking for the Grand Traverse Area Hospitality Association.
City commissioners didn’t expect to resolve the park use policy Monday night and voted to refer the park policy and noise ordinance to a special, three-commissioner study committee. The committees can take anywhere from four months to a year to report back to the full commission.
Brad Van Dommelen, president and CEO of Traverse City Tourism, said the city had developed a brand as a fun location and was critical of media stories about residents who complained of “festival fatigue” that ran nationwide.
“This is really about building a positive, fun brand (for Traverse City),” Van Dommelen, said. “These stories do not support the Traverse City brand.”
City commissioners looked at restrictions following an outcry by residents after a Labor Day weekend festival. The third festival in a month led to complaints about noise, trash, cheap rental fees and the frequency of events.
City resident Mike Dow said not all residents oppose the festivals.
“There are a lot of people downtown who moved here, live here, and enjoy these events,” Dow said.