Traverse City Record-Eagle


May 4, 2014

Editorial: Open Space policy passes its first test

Traverse City’s new festival policy, which limits major festivals at the Open Space to one per month during the summer and bans festival use of the Open Space on holidays, has already resulted in a major change.

And while there may be some downside it’s already obvious the new policy is going to spread the wealth and bring more venues for festivals and concerts into the mix. For entrepreneurs on both sides of the festival business, there is opportunity here and a chance to create new traditions.

And so far, this is exactly what city residents wanted when they complained that the general public had lost control of the bayfront to promoters and festivals.

The change revolves around the Taste of Traverse epicurean festival, which was held for the first time last September;

Festival promoter Carol Lewis said the new limits on use of the Open Space forced her to settle for a weekend in June, a date she didn’t think would work; she has instead partnered with the Grand Traverse Resort & Spa in Acme to host the festival on Labor Day weekend. She wanted to hold it downtown that same day, but the new Open Space policy put Labor Day off limits.

“There’s no hard feelings but I think it’s unfortunate they are going to push out an event like ours,” Lewis said. “I think they will suffer some consequences for being as strict as they are.”

Perhaps. But that depends entirely on who “they” is.

City residents complained in September about festival promoters tying up the Open Space almost every other weekend from July through September and criticized a city fee policy that in some cases charged a measly $400 to commandeer the Open Space for days. The months-long debate that followed divided residents, particularly those who live in the downtown area who complained about festival noise and traffic, from business people who rely on the tourism industry.

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