Loveland, Ohio – Friends of the Loveland Farmers’ Market, representatives of the Market, The Little Miami River Chamber Alliance, and two local businessman went to the city council meeting on January 10 to express dismay over a new policy for public events and the fees the city intends to charge.
• City staff worked most of 2016 drafting a new Special Event Policy (SEP). The policy was an administrative initiative spearheaded by Misty Cheshire, the Administrative Assistant to the City Manager.
• During a meeting of the SEP review committee, which representatives of Little Miami River Chamber Alliance (Chamber) attended, City staff announced they had registered Christmas in Loveland as a Trade Name with the State of Ohio and declared they were now owners of the event previously put on by the Chamber. (“On the sly” – How City Hall pirated Christmas in Loveland)
• On November 22, 2016, the SEP was adopted. (City of Loveland Special Event Policy)
• On December 13, 2016, City Council adopted an ordinance increasing fees for special events and park rentals. (Fees for special events and park rentals)
The policy applies to any festival, run/walk, concert, parade, public performance, or announced public gathering held on a public street, right-of-way, or public property. A private, invitation only event such as weddings or private party would not constitute a special event and would not require a permit unless it would affect public safety, health, or welfare.
– Non-refundable Application fee – $1,500
– Police, Fire/EMS, and Public Works Services – $60 per hour, per person, with a three-hour minimum
– Nisbet Park Rentals – Small and Large Shelter $100 each, Amphitheater $200
– Electric Subpanels – $75
– Tents larger than 10’ x 10’ – are subject to Hamilton County’s Fee Schedule
– Field Inspection for tents – $45
– Outdoor Music and Amplification Permit – $100
– Event insurance, naming the City as an additional insured, will be required. Coverage amounts will be based upon the activities relating to the event.
– Vendors and Mobile food trucks must obtain a license – $100 for four one-day visits or $500 for twenty-five one day visits.
• On December 13, 2016 a first reading of a new ordinance, Transient Businesses and Vendors Ordinance was read.
• On January 10, 2017, people and groups affected by the new policy, fees ,and transient ordinance attended the City council meeting to express dismay about the changes.
• On January 10, 2017, Council member Rob Weisgerber made a motion to table the second vote on a Transient Businesses and Vendors Ordinance until the city attorney could provide more information. The motion passed. Weisgerber, Kathy Bailey, Ted Phelps, Stephen Zamagias, and Mark Fitzgerald voted yes. Angie Settell, and Pam Gross voted no.
• On January 10, 2017, Council member Rob Weisgerber made a motion to re-consider the Fees for special events and park rentals ordinance that would become law in two days. The motion failed. Rob Weisgerber, Ted Phelps, and Kathy Bailey voted yes. Stephen Zamagias, Mark Fitzgerald, Angie Settell, and Pam Gross voted no.
The January 10 Council Meeting
During open forum, CeeCee Collins, President of the Chamber called for unity among the groups, however those representing the Farmer’s Market dominated the discussion, asking to be exempt from the policy and fees.
Mayor Mark Fitzgerald defended the higher fees, and questioned Councilmember, Rob Weisgerber’s motive for his change of mind suggesting he was pandering to a full council chamber. Fitzgerald said City staff gathered and reviewed cost associated with services for public events and the fees reflect the costs. He said that with the growth in Historic Downtown, city services are more expensive now than in the past. He described the new fee structure as a, “Market driven initiative.”
Collins said about the fees, “It’s shocking.” She cautioned that if Council was going to make one concession to a particular group they, “Had darn well be careful because your are going to have a lot of people coming looking at you asking why they got a special concession.” She concluded her statement by urging all the affected groups to come to a meeting hosted by the Chamber, “Let’s ban together.”
Ellen Mershon, speaking for the Facebook group, Friends of the Loveland Farmers’ Market, suggested the fee structure may be a punitive effort and told Council how much they would cost, suggesting the Market would not withstand the increased fees. She said the fees, “May violate the principle of reasonableness almost to the point of being punitive.” She said the total fees the market vendors would pay would be about $20,000, “A windfall to the City.” She believes the Market was previously told by City Hall that in 2016 costs to the City only amounted to $3,000.
Emily Hicks, representing the Loveland Farmers’ Market said under the new fees, each vendor would have to pay the city $1,000, saying the new fees amounted to a 4,000% increase over last year.
Joe Waller is a vendor at the market and spoke about his experience saying he could not afford to return in 2017 to sell his jellys and jams. Waller said that if the market closes he doesn’t know what he will do with his free time, but that he may have time to run for public office.
Collins, and council members, Weisgerber and Kathy Bailey spoke of the damage that could be done to all the non-profits that traditionally put on events in the City. The policy does not discriminate, and it is suggested it could have far reaching effects, reaching to the Loveland Athletic Boosters’ Homecoming Parade, the St. Columban Festival, the Chamber’s food truck rally, the Chamber’s Summer Concert Series, and others. The subject of whether the Amazing Charity Race would return this summer was also discussed.
Both Weisgerber and Bailey talked about how much they had learned since voting for the fees and new rules for transient vendors, and expressed they regretted their earlier support. Bailey said she has learned that because of the increased fees, the Amazing Charity will likely not return. She said that there are other communities that would be happy to pick up these types of events.
Fitzgerald said that if other communities were a more attractive place to hold these events he was surprised they hadn’t already moved. “Loveland is a desirable place to be. And, as they say in the real estate business – location, location, location.” The statement drew groans from the audience.
Bailey said, “We have an opportunity to correct an error and I think we need to take it.” When the motion to re-consider the ordinance failed to receive enough votes, even louder groans came from the audience.
The higher fees for public events, which includes events on private property, became law on January 12. The transient vendor ordinance was tabled and presumably will be an agenda item on January 24.