By Jane Smith

    Special events will be reviewed — again — this month.
    This time, Delray Beach city commissioners will approve a policy that follows directives given last year, while providing flexibility for city staff and promoters. The policy will go into effect Oct. 1, the start of the city’s budget year.
    Commissioners want to limit the number of events that would close major streets to just one a month and seek full cost recovery for city staff, property, equipment and other items needed for the festivals. Some also want to ban festivals from the Old School Square grounds, owned by the city.
    “There was a time when we wanted anything and everything and we got it, and then some,” Mayor Cary Glickstein said. “We are not that town today.”  
    At the July 5 commission meeting, he said, “Despite the popular myth out there on social media, the commission is not looking to get rid of events.”
    Since late spring, city staff has been using a guideline created by the special events task force. Delray Beach city staff, event promoters and representatives of the Downtown Development Authority, Old School Square, the Delray Beach Marketing Cooperative and the Greater Delray Beach Chamber of Commerce provided input.
    A smaller group meets monthly to review the festivals.
    The city commissioners listed six major events they want to host or see happen in the downtown: Veterans Day Parade in November, holiday parade and events in December, tennis tournament in February, St. Patrick’s Day Parade in March, Delray Affair in April and July Fourth events. No other major events are allowed in those months in the downtown core.
    The Howard Fine Arts Festival already secured the 2017 dates of Jan. 21 and 22 when it will close a section of East Atlantic Avenue, east of the Intracoastal Waterway. The main road closing and multiple days held classify the festival as a major event.
    Nearly every event saw its costs double after the city’s finance department figured out a way to bill organizers for city salaries, benefits and pension expenses.

Garlic Fest finds new venue
    The Delray Beach Garlic Fest was the first event to test the process. Festival organizer Nancy Stewart-Franczak selected February dates, the same month as the Delray Beach Open, considered a major event.
    The commission, without the mayor, was deadlocked in June about whether she could hold the 18-year-old festival in February because the Tennis Center has booked the Delray Beach Open for that month. Dates for the two events don’t overlap, but city staff starts working on the tennis 10 days before it starts. That work conflicts with the Garlic Fest proposed dates of Feb. 10 to 12.
    The multiple days and the city’s estimated cost of $61,000 put the Garlic Fest into a major event category.
    But Stewart-Franczak pulled her appeal at the July 5 commission meeting.
    She will move the fest to John Prince Park, a county property that sits west of Lake Worth.
    “We will have more of everything — bigger bands, more vendors,” she said. The Garlic Fest will be able to offer amusement rides because it received special approval, she said. It will be held Feb. 10-12.
    “It was a blessing that we were not approved,” she said. “We were trying to follow the rules, but it never felt right to reduce the size of the festival.”
    The event will still be fenced, but it will now be called the South Florida Garlic Fest.
    In late July, Stewart-Franczak also pulled the application for the 5th Annual Wine & Seafood Festival, slated for Nov. 12 and 13 on the Old School Square grounds. Her letter said there wasn’t enough time to plan the festival. She thanked the city team for working with her on the event, which was estimated to cost $44,204 in city services. The festival raises money for the Greater Delray Beach Chamber of Commerce and provides rental income for Old School Square.
    The mayor, though, would like to ban events from the Old School Square grounds. “At the end of the season, it looks more like the South Florida Fairgrounds than the historic park and public gathering place it was intended to be,” he said.
    Glickstein objects to the chain-link fencing the festivals use to close off the event to nonpaying customers. The fencing, he said, “sends the wrong message for how a city should maintain a public, historic property.”  Old School Square is on the National Register of Historic Places.
    The city and its Community Redevelopment Agency are spending more than $1 million this budget year and next to repair and replace roofs on the Old School Square complex, paint the buildings and fix underlying problems with the grounds. The City Commission and the CRA board will have a joint meeting Aug. 23 to discuss progress at the Old School Square.
    Once that work is finished by December, “it should be beautifully maintained as an historic park,” Glickstein said, “rarely closed to the public, and with ample walkways, shade trees and places for people to sit and gather without competing with special event schedules.”
    Although the Old School Square organization will see a loss of income by not renting to the festival promoters, Glickstein predicts it will see an increase in its endowment.
    “People want to know their donations are investments in truly public assets, not assistance to private promoters,” he said.  Overall, he wants to see more of a team approach to vetting special events, to include city staff and public safety employees, residents and business owners, along with the event promoters.
    “In August, we’ll decide all of this,” Commissioner Jordana Jarjura said.

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