(Crystal A. Proxmire, 3/20/2011)
Special events have long been a part of Ferndale culture, with celebrations like the Woodward Dream Cruise, Motor City Pride, The Memorial Day Parade, The Green Cruise, The DIY and Funky Ferndale Art Fairs and more drawing millions of people – and dollars – into the City each year.
But as economic factors forced City leaders into figuring out how to manage the City with fewer and fewer dollars coming in, they had turned to streamling the event management process and increasing fees/itemization on special events.
In 2010 they voted on a streamlined application process that organized the departments involved in orchestrating an event. An event committee made up of all involved departments must approve the plans, and all billing is now done through the City Clerk’s office. The ordinances also called for more thorough itemization of fees to be charged to event planners.
And while the new application process has made it easier for the City to manage events, it has also meant increased fees for those coming in to use City property as their place to celebrate. Just last month Ferndale learned that Motor City Pride would be holding its event in Detroit next year. And though organizers say the move is based on a desire to return to their roots, fees were an issue with the group during the planning of last year’s event. (https://oaklandcounty115.com/2011/02/21/perspectives-on-the-pride-move/).
Another event fee discussion arose on January 24 when Rib Burn Off organizer Dean Bach was denied a waiver for parking lot fees. The event took place in a heated tent in the Library parking lot, and the City estimated lost parking revenue in the amount of $396. Council decided to charge the fee, in an effort to be fair to everyone by not issuing waivers. However, research ultimately showed that the event actually brought increased parking revenues to the surrounding city lots because of the number of people the event attracted. On Feb. 14, resident Dennis Hoeppner complained on Bach’s behalf, and noted to Council that fees charged to nonprofits come out of money that would otherwise be going to charity. (https://oaklandcounty115.com/2011/02/18/dennis-says-no-to-parking-fees-for-nonprofit-events/).
In response to concerns raised at the January 24 Council meeting, the Special Events Committee February 15, 2011 met to discuss Council’s comments and concerns and made revisions to the Special Events Policy and Ordinance, most of which were approved by Council.
“As with so many things in Ferndale, the revisions to the special events ordinance were a collaborative effort of citizens, staff and council. Concerns of citizens and businesses are important to Council. We heard the concerns of Dean Bach and others and sought to address those concerns to preserve an important part of what makes Ferndale special – namely special events,” said Councilperson Galloway regarding the approval of Ord. 1105.
The following provisions have been made:
1. Remove 7% administrative fee The Special Event Application fee covers administrative costs and negates the need for this fee.
2. Remove straight time from items chargeable to an event The Special Events Committee determined that only overtime costs due to the presence of the event on City property will be charged to the event.
3. Remove lost parking revenue from items chargeable to an event. An analysis of parking revenue for the weeks before, during and after events shows that parking revenue increases on the weeks that events occur, despite the closure of streets and parking lots.
4. Give events the option of barricading parking lots themselves DPW can drop off barricades during regular business hours at no cost to the event for volunteers to erect. DPW will provide signage at least 48 hours prior to the scheduled parking lot closure. Road closures must be completed by DPW staff and events will be billed for this service.
5. Facilitator to consult departments prior to providing an estimate to event organizers This estimate will be discussed at the Special Event Committee meeting and approved or amended by the committee representative for each department.
6. Department representatives will sign the estimate and abide by it as closely as possible Since the estimate will be created based on departmental input any changes to it will be discussed and agreed upon at the Special Events Committee meeting.
7. Separate labor and accounting records will be kept for individual events. For events occurring on the same days/times departments will keep separate labor and accounting records to assure that events are accurately billed only for the services they receive.
8. Amendments to the existing special event ordinance. The modified ordinance clarifies the regulations for Special Events Committee processes, police enforcement of special event permit violations during the event and merchant use of City sidewalks during events.
The Committee also recommended Council review a proposed ordinance regarding demonstrations on public property. An amendment intended to regulate the permitting process for demonstrations on public property and to separate demonstrations from special events. They recommended that public demonstrations, which fall under free speech, be given a shorter timetable for acquiring permits.
As it stands now, organizers of events that expect over 500 people must apply six months in advance. For 100-500 people there is a three-month application deadline. Events of less than 100 do not require a special event permit, although activities that require closing streets or renting City property do still have costs involved.
Ord. 1106 was referred back to committee for further research and discussion. This ordinance would make parades and public demonstrations exempt from the special events policy and allow a quicker turn around time for processing requests for city services or use of city property. In the meantime these events will be treated as any other event would – with the same time constraints and costs associated with the current Ordinance.
Everyone on Council was in favor of the new policies. Mayor Dave Coulter said, “Residents have told us that events are an important part of what makes Ferndale special and attractive to them. Hopefully these changes to our policy makes holding events easier and less costly for groups and businesses to sponsor, while also making the process of applying less burdensome on our staff.”
“I would also have to say that it frees up staff and streamlines the process,” said Councilperson Mike Lennon.
In light of the Ordinance change, Councilperson Melanie Piana moved that Bach be refunded the $396 parking fee. This was also approved unanimously.
For other political and government news, go to https://oaklandcounty115.com/category/politics/.
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