Farmington event planners required to include businesses

If you’re planning an event in downtown Farmington, prepare to take an extra step required by a new city policy approved Monday.

Food Truck
Organizers of events like this 2014 food truck rally in downtown Farmington now have to show they’ve invited local businesses to participate.

Officials last year established a 6-month moratorium on new events, after some event organizers complained they were unfairly penalized by special requirements and fees. Former city manager Vince Pastue started the process, which has continued under current city manager David Murphy. The final, 20-page draft creates more specific guidelines and sets criteria for applicants that includes, for Riley Park events, inviting neighboring business owners to participate.

Council member Steve Schneemann found the requirement overly broad and asked city attorney Thomas Schultz whether other communities had a similar requirement. Schultz that the requirement is “a little different,” because it applies to the city’s central business district, which most cities don’t have

“This is unique to Farmington, with the idea that it’s a small place with not a lot of parking,” he said. Officials will have to decide with each event whether that provision would apply, Schultz said. Applicants will have to demonstrate to either the city manager or council that they’ve made a “reasonable effort” to include merchants.

Council member Greg Cowley, who several years ago began asking Riley Park event planners whether they polled neighboring business owners, said that if events are going to “eat up parking next to downtown businesses,” planners have to talk to the businesses.

“We have had some people say they’ve approached businesses, and they haven’t,” he said. “It’s a huge problem.”

Schneemann said he wouldn’t want to go out and ask business owners to participate for an event if his application had not yet been approved. He also questioned which businesses applicants should approach. Murphy suggested adding the word “compatible” to clarify that, for instance, downtown food businesses be asked to participate with a food-oriented event.

Other provisions include setting an expected attendance threshold of 150 to trigger automatic city council review. Murphy pointed out that the city manager would also have discretion to ask for council review of smaller events. Applications are required for all events in Riley Park, any event on city property or public streets where more than 25 people are expected, events that may interfere with traffic, or activities involving fireworks, tents or canopies, inflatables, alcohol service, amplified music, or animals on display.

Officials unanimously approved the new policy, with minor changes. Schultz said the city may accept applications under the new policy, but the city’s special events ordinance also needs revision.

“We took our time, paid attention to detail, and I think this is going to benefit the entire community,” Mayor Bill Galvin said.