The city has come to an agreement with two of Sarasota’s largest event organizers on a controversial new event-fee structure.
A draft of the proposal was released Dec. 2, and the City Commission is expected to vote on it at its Dec. 7 meeting.
The biggest change to the policy is that the money raised from certain special events happening within the Downtown Improvement District or St. Armands Business Improvement District will be given to those respective groups to spend on their projects. This includes events such as Smooth Jazz on St. Armands Circle.
The fee calculation is much simpler now. The charge is a flat per-day fee based on the size of the park. Before, it was calculated per square foot and had different charges for government use, non-profit-group use and for-profit-group use.
City Manager Bob Bartolotta suggested new fees in July that would recoup some of the $220,000 in man-hours he said city staff members were devoting to processing special-event permits.
Historically, the city has only charged event organizers for police protection and trash pickup, but Bartolotta is recommending the City Commission adopt a set of fees that would recover $40,000.
Diana Corrigan, St. Armands Circle Association executive director, told commissioners in September that because her group was going to be charged about $20,000 to put on 20 events on the Circle, she would be forced to cancel some events.
The commission did not approve the previous fee structure and asked Bartolotta to negotiate with Corrigan and Paul Thorpe, organizer of the annual downtown holiday parade.
The new fee structure is based on small, medium and large events.
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.
Thorpe said he is satisfied with the new fee structure.
“It came out as good as we were going to get it,” he said. “We knew we were going to be charged something.”
Under the proposal, six annual events would be exempt from fees:
• 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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