New regulations for special events as well as fees and charges associated with those events are now legally in place on Estero Island after the Fort Myers Beach Town Council unanimously accepted revisions to a previous ordinance on the subject matter.
Ordinance 12-04 adopts new regulations and repeals prior ordinances concerning special events, while resolution 12-08 provides a fee schedule for permit applications for those larger scaled events. Council previously held a workshop on the agenda item. Language has been changed in some sections of the ordinance to reflect the questions and concerns of the Council members at that time.
"This ordinance provides guidance and requirements for special events for those who want to put on a special event within the Town of Fort Myers Beach," said Town Manager Terry Stewart. "It encompasses the probating process of what one must do in order to be able to gain a permit and the requirements that are delineated or acquiring that permit."
Town Public Works Director Cathie Lewis stated the intent of the ordinance was "in an effort to clean up the existing ordinance" and "make provisions for certain areas that were not addressed previous to the existing ordinance" as well as clean up the language for recurring special events.
Some sectional language includes word changes ("Town manager or designee" to just Town); time allotment change (if permit is denied, Town manager must notify applicant at least five days prior to event instead of 15 days prior); amount of events authorized (six events per year per applicant can be permitted unless event is type that must be approved by Council); historic length of event (recurring events must be approved by Council); and a "noise" issue that may be tied to an event (if event is within 500 feet of residential property and has amplified sound, applicant must give written notice to residents of their right to submit a letter of objection to Town manager and date by which it must be submitted). It may be noted on the latter, one or more letters of objection may cause event request to be subject to approval of Council and conditions could be imposed.
Council approval is also needed for a given special event if the length of an activity where alcohol is served is four or more days, funding is requested and where noise ordinance limitations will be exceeded.
"Most large events can take upward to 45 days to get all the approvals, particularly if it is being held on the beach or in proximity to the beach," said Lewis. 'The purpose of this ordinance is to try to promote people to come in sooner versus later."
Councilwoman Jo List agrees. There should not be an imposition on Town staff if an applicant waits until the last minute to apply for a special event.
"Most of the special events are planned well in advance and that 45-day trigger is practically irrelevant in those situations," she said. "I know there are people that put permits the day before or two or three days before. That's an unreasonable demand. A lot of times those event permits are in fact missing pieces that the Town staff ends up helping (those applicants) gather."
Special event permits are required for application use for commercial, educational, civic, recreational and religious organizations. No person or entity is allowed to initiate, sponsor, organize, promote, conduct or advertise a special event or political demonstration unless a permit has been obtained from the Town.
The schedule of fees for special events include a $40 charge on completed application received 45 days or more before the actual event. There is an increase in fee if the application is received earlier than that set amount of days. Additional fees may also apply on an anticipated number of attendees (up to 500 people requires no additional fee; more than 500 people is to be determined by Town) at a special event. There are also banner fees ($160), electric fees and water fees.
A fee for a recurring event can be derived by multiplying the number of event dates by 50 percent of the application fee and adding the application. For example, 52 event dates X $20 = $1,040 + $40 = $1,080.
Any nonprofit group may be eligible for a special event fee waiver, although fee waivers are no longer automatic. Religious groups that hold events away from their respective properties are subject to fees as well.
According to the ordinance, requests for fee waivers may be handled on a first come, first serve basis until such time as the annual budgeted amount has been exhausted. Once the annual amount has been exhausted, no further fee waivers shall be granted. However, at any time during the course of the year, Council may take action to increase the amount budgeted for such fee waivers.