The Sarasota City Commission unanimously ratified a compromise for an event-fee schedule that satisfied both event organizers and city officials Monday, but not before changing a stipulation on weddings on city property.
City Manager Bob Bartolotta proposed in July a new set of special-event fees intended to offset the cost in man-hours spent to process event permits.
Bartolotta said it took 668 days of staff time to process 358 special-event permits last year, which equates to $220,000 in man-hours.
Historically, the city only charged event organizers for police protection and trash pickup.
“It will impact these events in a big way,” Bartolotta said at the time. “This will be controversial.”
He was correct in both respects.
Diana Corrigan, executive director of the St. Armands Circle Association, was especially critical of the new fee structure. She said the association, which organizes 20 annual events on the Circle, would have been charged between $15,000 and $20,000.
Corrigan said the association would not have been able to afford those costs and would have had to cancel some of the Circle’s events.
The city set up a series of meetings with Corrigan; Paul Thorpe, Downtown Sarasota Holiday Parade organizer; and other interested parties to negotiate a new fee schedule.
Instead of costs being calculated by square feet, the charge is a flat per-day fee based on the size of the park.
Small events are held in a “park, urban area or linear space” that is less than three acres. They cost $250 per day. Medium events occur in three-to-six-acre spaces and cost $500 per day. Large events happen in places that are more than six acres. Their cost is $1,000 per day.
“I’d like to thank you for listening to our concerns,” Corrigan told Bartolotta. “I think we’ve come up with a (solution) we’re comfortable with.”
Another part of the compromise is pleasing downtown and St. Armands groups. Fees raised from events sponsored by the Downtown Sarasota Association and the St. Armands Circle Association will be given to the Downtown Improvement District and St. Armands Business Improvement District, respectively, so that money can be reinvested in those areas.
During negotiations, the group came up with a new fee — $250 for weddings held in city parks.
But the commission felt that fee was exorbitant for extremely small weddings and stipulated that the fee only be charged to weddings with parties of more than 10 people.
Under the event-fee compromise, six annual events will not be charged for permit processing.
•Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. March (Newtown)
•Memorial Day Parade (Downtown)
•Veterans Day Parade (Downtown)
•Holiday Night of Lights (St. Armands)
•Downtown Holiday Parade (Downtown)
•National Night Out (Payne Park)
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