Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

On Circle, a New Ban on Events

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

On Circle, a New Ban on Events

Article excerpt

ST. ARMANDS: City agrees to a moratorium on permits during the peak season

SARASOTA -- No more permits for outdoor events at St. Armands Circle will be issued during the peak tourist season this winter and spring, according to a moratorium ordered by the City Commission Monday night.

The temporary ban, supported by many local merchants, would allow no more special events in the St. Armands Circle Park from Feb. 1 to April 20. Meanwhile, city staff are working on an ordinance to make the seasonal ban permanent.

For years, City Hall has honored an informal agreement with St. Armands merchants and residents to avoid permitting special events there during the peak tourist season. The events do little to help business, merchants say, because the area is already crowded, and the added traffic becomes a major headache for visitors and residents. But that agreement, made years ago, was never properly recorded or codified into law.

When events have been scheduled in the park during the high season, it's been disruptive, said Diana Corrigan, executive director of the St. Armands Circle Association, which represents merchants there. "It's a terrible problem," Corrigan said. "Regular customers will stay away because of the traffic."

Recently, City Attorney Bob Fournier suggested that the city put an ordinance in writing so that special event applications at St. Armands could be denied without risking legal challenges or complaints of discrimination. City staff are working on one now, but it will be months before it is ready. In the meantime, the City Commission voted on a temporary ban for the coming year. A classic antique car show on March 22 could be exempted from the ban because organizers have already applied for a permit, Fournier said. The future ordinance could take effect starting next year, and would apply from Feb. 1 to April 15 or Easter -- whichever occurs last.

In other business:

Some downtown retail businesses, such as bookstores, will be allowed to start keeping outdoor tables and pianos on Main Street's newly-widened sidewalks, at least on a temporary basis. …

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