Traverse City Record-Eagle

February 11, 2014

Editorial: Open Space fee changes a start, but more needed

Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — Any final Open Space festival use policy will face plenty of bedeviling details, but the Traverse City Commission has taken an important first step by setting a basic fee structure that comes closer to meeting the city’s costs.

The new policy allows promoters to use half the Open Space for $1,000 for the first day and $500 for each subsequent day. That’s up from a paltry $400 and $100 respectively, which was much too little.

The city will charge an additional $350 for each day alcohol is served. The city can also begin charging promoters who stage events in city parking lots for the loss of revenue from permits and parking meters.

The policy doesn’t differentiate between for-profit promoters and non-profits, or between groups that use half the Open Space or only a corner; but issues like those can and should be worked on in the future. Giving nonprofits a break is worth revisiting.

Commissioners Tim Werner and Gary Howe both said they would like to see fees tied more closely to the amount of space used to make it easier for smaller, start-up events to make it.

That makes sense and should be looked at.

The city will also assign staff to ensure promoters comply with park rules and will set up an e-mail address for residents to share concerns or file a noise complaint.

New festivals will have to go through a review by the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission to give the public a chance to comment.

Those all make sense for now, but the city must be willing to fine-tune any new policy after seeing how the changes actually work.

Other issues that should be addressed in the coming months include:

n Setting actual, measurable noise limits. How sound carries across the bay or south into residential areas depends a lot on the direction of speakers, wind and weather; but there should be base limits the city can fall back on.

n Giving non-profits and small groups a break on fees.

n Possibly establishing an area where small groups can set up a tent or two for one-day events. Charity walks that want to use the Open Space as a finish line for half a day shouldn’t have to pay the full freight but should also interfere as little as possible with other users.

n City staff should also closely monitor actual city costs for police, garbage and trash pickup to ensure fees match reality and the city should be ready to make changes if they’re called for.

The key to any new policy will be the city’s willingness to listen, change and be flexible. City residents are willing to share the bay, but that goes both ways.