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City moves forward with new event application process, permit fees
special events pic
Events that take place in the public right of way, like the Salvation Army Kettle Dash, may soon have to fill out a new Special Events Application and pay a permit fee. - photo by Photo Contributed

A new special event application process is coming just in time, as Parks, Recreation and Public Facilities Director Allison Van Guilder said that the City has seen a spike in organizations wanting to hold events in Turlock.

The Turlock City Council reviewed a draft Special Event Application on Tuesday, which includes a first-ever permit fee schedule and directed City staff to move forward with finalizing the document.

City staff has been working on drafting a Special Event Application since December, when the City Council decided to change the way events were handled in Turlock. At that time, the Council decided to separate the process event organizers would go through to host an annual event and an on-going event, like a downtown farmers market.

"Two of the key things that have come out of that process that are different than we've had in the past are obviously the fee structure, that is something that is new for our city, and also the prioritization in terms of how we would grant access to our public right of ways," said Van Guilder.

The Special Event Application separates permits into three categories — events expected to have fewer than 500 attendees that will be contained at one location; events with more than 500 attendees at one location; and moving events such as parades, runs or bike races.

The Special Event Application gives priority to events held by non-profit organizations and events which have a history of five years or more and are in good standing with the City. The proposed non-profit permit fee is $100, with for-profit organizations paying $150. Any event at which alcohol will be served must pay an additional $100 at the time of application.

The City is also requiring a $250 damage/cleaning deposit to be paid at the time of the application, which would be refunded upon event review and conclusion.

After presenting the draft application, Councilman Bill DeHart questioned Van Guilder on the reason for instituting permit fees.

"What was the problem we actually had that caused us to consider creation of or increasing fees? It's not a revenue center for us in terms of garnering a significant sum of money. Are we just trying to cover expenses? What is the rationale?" asked DeHart.

Van Guilder said that a lot of City staff time goes into evaluating a special event request.

"It goes not only into the Park and Rec office, but from there it also goes into your police department, your fire department, your traffic engineering department, sometimes your city attorney, depending on the nature of the event. So prior to the City allowing access to the public right of way or the closure of a street, we spend a lot of time evaluating, primarily to insure that no matter how great the event is, we want to make sure we minimize the impact on the neighboring properties and the community in general," said Van Guilder.

"We recognize the fee is not a money maker, it nowhere near covers the cost of our evaluation."

She went on to say that it makes sure event organizers have "some skin in the game," meaning that they are committed to putting on a successful event.

The City is also proposing a $100 late fee for applications in categories one and two submitted after the 90 calendar days prior to event deadline, and after the 120 calendar days prior deadline for category three events.

"That is one of the key points that our committee discussed because when somebody comes into our office with maybe 30 days before the event they want to host... it not only poses challenges for staff because we want to put it through a proper review, it causes problems for us to get it before you (City Council) if it involves a street closure, where we need Council approval," said Van Guilder.

One of the members of the stakeholders committee was Scott Snyder, a local real estate business owner and organizer of the annual Aspire Fitness Challenge, a free 30-day challenge to encourage the community to get in shape by setting their own personal health goals that culminates in a one-mile community walk or 5k jog.

"We've had a great experience," said Snyder at Tuesday's Council meeting. "I didn't like to see a couple of extra pages, but when they walked us through it made sense."

The City Council did not propose any changes to the draft Special Events Application and it is expected to go before the Council for adoption at an upcoming meeting.