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Longboat Key Wednesday, Jul. 9, 2014 7 years ago

Circle stakeholders seek special events oversight

by: David Conway Deputy Managing Editor

As the date of a public hearing for a new special events ordinance draws nearer, St. Armands stakeholders are continuing their push for more favorable regulations in St. Armands Circle Park.

At Tuesday’s St. Armands Business Improvement District meeting, City Attorney Robert Fournier fielded questions regarding the forthcoming ordinance, scheduled for consideration at the July 21 Sarasota City Commission meeting. In establishing the ordinance, the city wants to formalize the process by which it approves or denies special events applications — particularly considering the unique environment of St. Armands Circle Park.

Last year, the City Commission approved a temporary blackout period for special events at St. Armands Circle Park from February through April 20, to avoid traffic issues and other problems affecting businesses during the height of season. Options for a permanent blackout period will be incorporated into the commission’s discussion of the ordinance.

Those present at Tuesday’s meeting expressed a preference for a system that sought to replicate the informal practices in place before 2009. City staff observed a similar blackout period and had a limit of two events per month in the park, but the rules were flexible. If landowners, merchants and residents all agreed an event was acceptable despite it violating the regulations, it was allowed.

“This agreement that we had since 1997 worked well,” said Diana Corrigan, St. Armands Circle Association executive director. “Up to this point in time, we haven’t had a problem.”

Fournier said city special events workers are interested in establishing an ordinance to have clearly defined regulations on what events should be allowed. In the past, the city attorney has stated that private groups — such as the St. Armands Landowners, Merchants and Residents Association — cannot have control over the allowable uses of a public park.

St. Armands BID Vice Chairman Marty Rappaport attempted to persuade Fournier to give the landowners, merchants and residents some sway over the events. Rappaport said the city should have the ultimate say over what happens in the park, but argued the input of the three groups should be heavily considered.

“If you can get all three of them to agree it’s good for the Circle, it seems to me you’ve got the basis of a decision as to why or why not you’re accepting an event,” Rappaport said.

Still, Fournier said more concrete criteria are necessary. As a result, St. Armands stakeholders are searching for a way to insert elements into the ordinance that will largely preserve the status quo at the park.

The BID board also directed Rappaport to initiate a conversation with city administration about leasing the park to give landowners, merchants and residents the cachet they desired. Rappaport said that, as a commercial tourist district, there needs to be some mechanism in place that ensures the park serves as an asset for the businesses of St. Armands Circle.

“There should be a process where you could filter the type of the events that come in as to whether they foster the long term goals of the Key,” Rappaport said.

Contact David Conway at [email protected]


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