No Interest From Commissioners In Charging Cherry, Film Fest Permit Fees
By Beth Milligan | Sept. 10, 2019
Traverse City commissioners Monday expressed little interest in requiring the National Cherry Festival and Traverse City Film Festival to start paying permit fees to the city, indicating the topic will likely be put to bed for the foreseeable future.
The National Cherry Festival and Traverse City Film Festival are the only events that don’t have to pay city permit fees, including application fees and costs to use city parks and parking lots. The two festivals do pay the city for the incremental costs incurred by their events, such as police overtime – a requirement also imposed on other event organizers. In 2019, the Cherry Festival was charged $63,949 for incremental costs, while the Film Festival was charged $11,740.
But for several years, the two festivals have enjoyed a special exemption extended to them by a past group of city commissioners. Those commissioners, when rewriting the city’s events policy in 2014, felt the Cherry Festival and Film Festival had a “unique place in the history and culture of Traverse City” and therefore deserved special consideration and exemptions from rules and fees applied to other events. Notably, permit fees were waived for the two festivals. According to City Clerk Benjamin Marentette, if the Cherry Festival paid permit fees to the city, those costs would total approximately $20,000 on top of incremental fees. The Film Festival’s permit fees, meanwhile, would total an estimated $8,000 on top of its existing costs.
While some commissioners in May expressed interest in revisiting the permit fee issue - particularly after city parking staff requested that the festivals start paying to use city parking lots - the board Monday agreed with sentiments expressed by festival staff that their contributions to Traverse City outweigh their waived fees. National Cherry Festival Executive Director Kat Paye pointed out that the Cherry Festival has made more than $50,000 in electrical and sprinkler system upgrades to the Open Space, and also contributes annually to a number of Traverse City charitable causes. The Cherry Festival also donates its barricades for free for many community nonprofits to use, she said. Traverse City Film Festival staff similarly argued their event provides free programming to the community through Open Space movies at the festival's own expense.
City Clerk Benjamin Marentette acknowledged that because the two festivals have been running for so many years, they require less staff time to review than other, newer events - such as this year's Ironman race - do. "It just gets smoother and smoother every year," he said. Based on feedback from city staff and festival personnel, commissioners indicated they had no interest at this time in pursuing charging the two events for permit fees.