Special Events Too Much Of a Good Thing, City Officials Say

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By: Marisa Gottesman Associate Editor
They helped put Delray Beach on the map as a place that knew how to throw a party and have a good time.
And commissioners say they hear all sorts of complaints from residents, business owners and restaurateurs that the city is throwing and hosting too many parties, festivals and events.
But a recent poll commissioned by the Delray Newspaper, indicates that registered Delray voters like, support or attend Delray events.
The results account for a standard margin of 4.9 percent and show that
83 percent of residents polled support or attend events.
One of the city’s largest event producers Nancy Stewart-Franczak will tell you the events are part of the city’s fabric.
She pioneered bringing events to Delray more than 20 years ago. She is responsible for hosting Garlic Fest and Bacon and Bourbon.
While she said she isn’t opposed to tweaking how certain events are put on she said it is bold for commissioners to say that everyone hates festivals and events.
Commissioners asked city staff to look into the world of special events and how the city handles the food events, holiday festivities and art shows in an effort to hone in on the number and type of events the city offers.
“I don’t believe that just because you have had an event here that is it sacrosanct,” Mayor Cary Glickstein said.
A search into the number of times city roads are closed, what types of parties are coming to town and where events are taking place began last year.
An updated report including ways to create better policies and procedures for hosting events in the city was given to commissioners on March 8. Ideas include creating a special events policy, preventing any new events from coming to town for 24 months and charging event planners the full cost of any expenses the city incurs.
City staff would also like to implement a one-stop clearinghouse for event planners to submit their plans to, create a master community calendar that lists all events and bump up security measures at events.
Since the previous update in June, officials said they reduced the number of road closures and events and changed layouts and locations of other events.
But the update didn’t completely please all commissioners. Some said just because it may soon cost more to do an event in the city doesn’t mean the event will cease to exist. They want to take a closer look at what events exist, why they began and what purpose they currently serve.
Commissioners called out several events including the Chamber of Commerce’s Seafood and Wine Festival, privately produced Garlic Fest and Bacon and Bourbon festival as events that they have heard complaints about.
Mayor Cary Glickstein said it was “mind boggling” that the Seafood and Wine festival shut down part of A1A and referred to the event as “honky tonk.”
Commissioners also expressed concerns about the number of events that take place on the grounds of Old School Square. They say the grass gets trampled and destroyed and the residents end up footing the bill for spiffing the space back up.
While a new proposal would bill the event planners for any damage, commissioners said they would like to see events move to other parts of the city.
“It’s not just the cost of personnel or clean up but the impact of infrastructure,” Commissioner Jordana Jarjura said.
Glickstein said part of the problem is how popular the events have become.
“It’s the scale of the event that has become a large part of the problem,” he said. “Nobody minded these events when they weren’t so big.”
Jarjura agreed, “I don’t want residents to feel they have to flee when they are big events.”
Stewart-Franczak said she would like to work with the city to come up with ways to improve upon special events without killing the fun.
“We have to join forces somehow,” she said. “I know that we are at maximum capacity on some of the event crowds, but I have no where to expand to. I would be happy to pioneer something on Congress Avenue.”
“The question is, where do we go from here?” she said.