+ Paragon sets the record straight
Paragon Fine Art Festivals has remained silent to date on the issue of the St. Armands Fine Art Festival permitted in St. Armands Circle Park April 26 and April 27.
However, faced with your editorial last week, which contains inaccuracies, it is imperative we speak out to ensure any further discussion is based on the truth and accurate information.
Your editorial asserts that because Paragon was “… unable to win over the St. Armands Circle Association, the St. Armands Residents Association and the St. Armands Landowners Association … for a show time in April, Paragon took its case to City Hall and submitted an application for an art festival this coming April 26 and 27.”
This is untrue.
Paragon never made an attempt to “win over” the Circle Association, Residents Association or the LMR in the effort to get our permit.
To be clear: St. Armands Circle Park belongs to the people of the city of Sarasota. Under the existing guidelines of the city, anyone wishing to hold an event in St. Armands Circle Park makes his application directly to the city permitting department, not to the St. Armands Circle Association, St. Armands Residents Association or the LMR.
These organizations are not in the permitting loop nor authorized to grant permit applications for any event in the park. They do have the ability to submit their objections or comments in writing within 15 days, citing on what basis those objections are founded. Thus, they were not approached.
And while the 2002 “accord” referenced talks of “acquiescence criteria,” I am certain the Sarasota city attorney’s office would concur that “acquiescence” should never come with a price tag on it as in purchasing sponsorship, a scenario that negates objectivity — if not legality — on the part of those offering their “acquiescence” in the permitting process.
The editorial claims the blackout period is January through April, according to the 1998 accord that was “strengthened” in 2002.
As currently practiced, the blackout period begins Feb. 1, not Jan. 1, and extends until April 15 or Easter, whichever comes first. This is the existing, though unofficial, blackout period established between the LMR and the city.
Paragon’s original application was March 8 and March 9. Those dates were moved to late April at the request of the LMR to be compliant with the blackout period. Because the event was already announced, this change invoked great expense to Paragon.
Now the LMR seeks to extend the blackout period through April in what we believe to be a transparent attempt to force our event to fail.
The LMR has failed to provide any substantive or compelling data supporting their desire to expand the moratorium into April.
We would agree that if an extension for “high season” is warranted, the only legitimate case exists is for extending it back to Jan. 1, which Sarasota County Tourist Development tax data show is higher tourism than April and therefore more of a “peak” month.
We will gladly provide this data if you wish to review it and the contacts. If the LMR sincerely believes protecting the high season is warranted, it must relinquish its hosted event in late January and support a Jan. 1 to April 15 blackout period.
In closing, it is hard to accept your editorial’s contention that the way to “resolve this for good” is for the city to sell or lease St. Armands Circle Park to the LMR — and that this represents “Power … to the people.”
The people currently have an organization to better represent them, their neighbors and visitors to the Sarasota community: the city of Sarasota government.
And before anyone throws his weight behind the 2002 unofficial “accord,” he should take heed of the words of the city officials who say the city of Sarasota “cannot discriminate and is therefore required to approve a permit if the park use is legal, the applicant qualified and the event falls outside of the blackout period.”
If further discussion is warranted about issues of public safety, traffic flow and emergency medical services associated with an outdoor festival in St. Armands Circle Park, the LMR must take an unbiased, critical view of how the event it supports in January performs — or fails — on all these points before trying to apply any standards to new events.
Hypocrisy is not a sturdy pedestal from which to preach.
Paragon Fine Art Festivals
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR: The Sarasota Observer welcomes letters on current, local topics. Please email them to Deputy Executive Editor Jessica Luck at [email protected]. Letters pertaining to local issues receive priority. Letters may be edited for grammar and space, and must include writer’s full name and address.