Traverse City Record-Eagle

November 16, 2013

City ponders new festival restrictions

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — The cost for festival promoters to use the Open Space and other city parkland could more than quadruple under proposed fees that are part of potential new park policy.

Fees could hit $9,800, plus the cost of a police officer who would act as ombudsman for a two-day festival, based on a recommendation from city staffers. That would-be fee compares with about $1,500 in fees for a similar festival under current city rules.

City commissioners will consider fees, a stricter noise ordinance, and a four-festival limit at the Open Space during the summer when they meet Monday at 7 p.m. in the Governmental Center.

“There’s a lot of good things, but it’s not going nearly far enough,” said new city Commissioner Ross Richardson. “I think it needs a lot more work than what’s been done.”

The recommended policy would do the following:

n Limit Open Space use for festivals to once in June and once in August, in addition to the National Cherry Festival and Traverse City Film Festival.

n Reduce set-up and removal time for festivals from six to three days.

n Ban park use for major or high-impact events on Labor Day and Memorial Day weekends and for three days during the Fourth of July, though the Cherry Festival is exempt.

n Charge promoters from $800 to $2,000 for additional trash pickup along the bayfront and downtown.

n Assign a police officer as an ombudsman for all festivals to ensure compliance with permit rules.

Richardson wants the policy to better address parking and driving on grass; the use of generators, which ads to noise and visual pollution, and better regulations of commercial vendors and their signage. He also wants to take a closer look at the proposed fee structure.

“It’s a fairly significant jump, but whether it’s enough or not I don’t know,” he said.

Mayor Michael Estes said he doesn’t expect any fast decision on the park use policy because the public needs more time to digest it and the commission more time to discuss it. But he hopes the commission will introduce the noise ordinance for adoption at its next regular meeting.

“If the city commission can abate some of the noise problems, I think the other issues will start to go away,” Estes said.

The proposed ordinance would change sound requirements to include lower level, bass sounds. The ordinance would apply to all events, not just festivals. A violation warrants a one-time, maximum $500 fine. But it also puts a festival in violation of its permit, allowing the city manager under the parks policy to order the event halted if it doesn’t lower the sound, wrote city attorney Lauren Trible-Laucht in a memo.

Mark Walter, who does the sound for National Cherry Festival concerns as general Manager of Sound Environment LLC, said the new limits overall aren’t much more restrictive that those that exist now.

The lower limits may prevent some acts from playing at the Open Space, but it won’t be a problem for the Cherry Festival, he said.

Walter took extensive sound readings last year in city neighborhoods during the National Cherry Festival’s Foreigner concert and said they would still fall below the proposed limit.

“We’d be a lot closer, but we’d still be under it,” Walter said. “It means you’ll never see any acts ... bigger than the Cherry Festival’s.”