New festival permit fees in 2009 budget

The issue of permit fees for the Open Aire Market, Lavender Festival and Irrigation Festival arose once again at the last Sequim Planning Commission meeting.

After debating the issue for 90 minutes, the panel unanimously approved the proposed fees but decided to include a statement explaining why nonprofit festivals shouldn't be charged.

The proposed permit fees to be included in the 2009 city budget include $750 for both the Irrigation and Lavender festivals and $300 for other festivals, up from zero in 2008 and a $780 fee for the Open Aire Market, up from $260 in 2008.

Joe Borden from the Irrigation Festival said he was a little confused because they all are volunteers but are getting charged a fee to provide a community service. Paying the proposed

$750 isn't impossible but it isn't easy, he said.

Borden said the Irrigation Festival is a nonprofit but the Lavender Festival makes a ton of money that doesn't come to the city.

"What concerns me is it makes the city look greedy. I think it should be reconsidered for that one," planning commissioner Dick Foster said.

Planning commissioner Larry Freedman said, "Good point, so let's say we don't charge the nonprofit festivals."

Planning commissioner Barbara Richmond said, "I'm a member of the Lavender Growers Association. We're nonprofit and zero out every year."

The seven farms involved with the festival have an opportunity to make money but their opportunity is as market vendors so they should not be charged a fee, Richmond said.

Planning commissioner Mark Ozias, who also is manager of the Open Aire Market, said the issue isn't whether a festival is for profit or nonprofit but whether it provides a public benefit that allows the city to alter its fees.

Freedman said he was concerned that the term "public benefit" must be very clearly defined, which is why he wants to use the distinction of for profit or nonprofit.

During the public comment session, Vickie Maples, executive director of the Sequim-

Dungeness Valley Chamber of Commerce, said it was important the city identify the cost of festivals as a factor in charging permit fees.

The chamber is considering a couple of new events that might be affected by this, she said.

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