Village sticks festivals with big fees

Supposed lost parking revenue means big cost for organizers

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

Thursday Night Out, What's Blooming on Harrison and the Microbrew Review are just a few of the street festivals that call Oak Parkers, along with those outside of the village, to gather for a little fun in the sun before the temperature starts to drop.

But organizers are feeling a lot less festive this year after being hit with thousands of dollars in new fees by the village of Oak Park.

The Oak Park Board of Trustees directed village staff last year to look into recouping some of the costs associated with the festivals, particular those resulting from lost parking revenue from metered spots and village-owned parking lots in the business districts that are shut down due to festivals.

Downtown Oak Park, a special service area in downtown Oak Park, was sent an invoice for $6,300 for the reported loss of parking revenue resulting from its closure of Marion Street every Thursday from late May to the end of August. What's Blooming on Harrison, which is held for a full weekend in May, was sent and invoice for $1,200 for the street closure.

The list of invoices goes on, and organizers are pushing back. 

Shanon Williams, executive director of Downtown Oak Park, said she still has no idea where the fee came from. She said it is not properly authorized anywhere in the village code.

She says she and others were blindsided by the big bills. 

"We got hit and others got hit harder than us," she said, noting that festivals like What's Blooming have very tight budgets to hold their events.

"We've never been charged with any kind of parking [fees] at all," she said, noting that previous boards encouraged the events to attract people to the shops in the downtown area. "Everything was made so that the street could be closed down for events. The direction [from previous boards] was to close it down for events and have as many as you can."

Williams said her group attracts thousands of people to the downtown area "and now we're getting penalized for it."

It's been explained that the fees are to offset the cost of the lost parking revenue, but Williams said each Thursday Night Out brings in 500 to 800 people.

"They are parking somewhere," she said in an email.

Kim Humphrey, owner of Bead in Hand, 145 Harrison St., and an organizer for the What's Blooming festival, said they've been holding the event since 1999 and have never been sent a bill. 

She said the fee especially makes no sense for the festival on Harrison because there is no metered parking in the area. 

Humphrey said that she was told that it was in the village ordinance and cannot be waived, but added in an email: "It's not in the special events ordinance."

"There is not one single statement in any of the special events documents – ordinance, application, fee schedule – that remotely suggests that these fees apply to them. But now that we've been billed for it, it's official and can't be removed.  

"This is ridiculous," she wrote. 

Village trustees Bob Tucker and Jim Taglia have requested that the issue be reviewed at the village board's next Finance Committee meeting, but Tucker said in a telephone interview that he was not aware the festivals would be charged such high fees when trustees approved recouping some of the lost revenue last year.

He said the fees were implemented by village staff and festival organizers believe they are too high and that they were not given advance notice that the increased fees were coming.

"We fully appreciate they are operating on tight budgets," Tucker said. "We thought those were legitimate concerns, and we want to be sympathetic to the people who attract people to downtown."

He said that the village board did not establish how much the fees would increase but was left to village staff.

"I can understand some of the reaction from the business community," he said. "I think those are fair arguments, and that's why we need to dissect this."

Trustee Simone Boutet echoed Tucker's comments, saying the fees were never approved by the board.

"The staff is authorized to charge for barricades and police overtime and whatever it takes to clean up and manage for the events; we have never authorized for lost parking revenue," she said.

She argued that the Thursday Night out event likely brings in additional revenue from those parking in village-owned parking garages and other metered spots in the downtown area.

Boutet noted that the new parking fee is being charged not through the special events ordinance but under the construction section of the village ordinance. 

"I would say it's a misinterpretation of the ordinance," she said. "I don't want to be digging into other inapplicable codes to make things worse for people."

CONTACT: tim@oakpark.com

Reader Comments

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Bill Dwyer  

Posted: August 10th, 2018 4:02 PM

Classic "penny wise and pound foolish" thinking.

Jason Cohen  

Posted: August 10th, 2018 2:13 PM

The Village Board needs to fix this mistake. They might not have approved the amount but they clearly got this whole ball started by trying to find new fees to charge people. This is a great example of penny wise and pound foolish. The local community is better because of these events and they bring exposure to our community which helps bring in new shoppers and residents. There are already fees charged for events like this. This is just adding on. I also agree with many of the comments that the idea of lost parking revenue seems loose at best. People aren't coming here on magic carpets. They are just parking a little farther away.

Kathleen Reller  

Posted: August 10th, 2018 8:38 AM

Let me repeat what Kim Humphrey has said. We ALREADY receive a hefty invoice each year, from the village, for services rendered for our festival. This "other" invoice came, completely unexpected, after our fest was over. We don't have any metered parking in our district, except for Lombard Street, which remains OPEN during the festival. We are a small, volunteer-run organization. This blind-sided us. I could go on about our shoe-string budget and how this will hurt us, because it truly will. But the point is, that this fee DOESN'T APPLY to our district.

Rich Barker from Oak Park  

Posted: August 10th, 2018 6:40 AM

This is crazy talk. Let's not forget that those downtown metered parking spots are free after 6 PM. Do you really think that those fees are legitimate?!?! One more example of our village taxing or charging fees for more money instead of figuring out how to live within budget and actually provide services to the community.

Kathleen Reller  

Posted: August 9th, 2018 9:55 PM

I'm on the committee for What's Blooming and I would like to add that there is a misprint in the article. Our festival is not an entire weekend. It's ONE DAY, once a year.

Chris Kobernus  

Posted: August 9th, 2018 6:48 AM

another poor decision by the Village of OP. Looks like we all be going to Forrest Park for everything.

Jacek Lazarczyk  

Posted: August 8th, 2018 10:00 AM

Lost parking revenue is really hard to swallow and believe. While there is revenue lost at the very meter that sits by the curb of a closed off street, this loss would be offset by cars choosing to park at a nearby parking garage. I am certain no one at the village bothered to net the two together.

Jeff Schroeder from Oak Park  

Posted: August 8th, 2018 8:29 AM

Governments can be greedy, just like corporations, I see. Actually, from the lost parking fee should be a deducted an amount for increased sales tax revenue that VOP receives as a result of business promotion in these areas. Not to mention higher property taxes going into the TIFS as these locations go up in value.

Darlene G. Ward  

Posted: August 8th, 2018 8:20 AM

I park on the Forest Park side and walk over. Love the Downtown Festival and hope it does not go away.

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: August 8th, 2018 12:56 AM

@ Kline Maureen: Yes, and the SACRED COW gives bad or no milk, therefore useless.Stop feeding and butcher.

Marty Bracco  

Posted: August 7th, 2018 10:20 PM

Having been to several Thursday Night Outs this summer, I have a hard time believing the VOP has lost any net "revenue" (i,e, parking tax). Hundreds of people spending money, generating sales taxes, in all likelihood far exceeds any alleged parking fees that would be missed.

Donna Oswald  

Posted: August 7th, 2018 9:50 PM

This article is confusing. Early on it says village staff were directed by the board to look at ways to recoup costs, specifically lost parking revenue. Later on in the article a quote from Trustee Bouctet said fees were unapproved by board & that board has never authorized for lost parking revenue. Trustees Tucker & Taglia said they didn't realize fees would be so high when they approved recouping some of the lost revenue last year. So which is it, either the board said recoup parking fees or they didn't. Wouldn't there be meeting minutes indicating the board specifically singling out "lost" parking revenue as a cost to recoup? If that were the case, the argument for Blooming on Harrison is invalid as there is no metered parking there to be lost. I suggest folks show up in mass to the Budget Finance Meeting to voice their disapproval & let the village know how much it will hurt them in the long rain. Pound wise, penny foolish if some of the festivals either move elsewhere or shut down completely.

Kline Maureen  

Posted: August 7th, 2018 9:49 PM

@Brian Slowiak - two words: SACRED COW

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: August 7th, 2018 8:22 PM

Is this the same village staff that gave, gave, the Frank LLoyd Wright Studio $20,000 so the studio could move a utility pole? If FLW needed $20,000 they could have raised ticket prices a dollar from 18 months and the expense would have been made up almost completely by outside sources.

Heinz Schuller  

Posted: August 7th, 2018 7:52 PM

Yes, our "precious" lost parking revenue. Someone please tell Frodo that Gollum has the ring again.

Kymberlyn Rosalind  

Posted: August 7th, 2018 7:32 PM

Oh my! I highly doubt those few metered spots on that short block of Marion that is closed down bring in that much money on THURSDAY night if there were no festival.. The businesses make more money on those nights because there is more street traffic. There are lots other places to park - people come for the festival and they will come to shop too. I think it is a bonus. I live right now the street and on a Thursday night in the fall and winter.. Not all those metered spots are filled up.. It think also because it is not completely obvious to visitors that you can drive down that street and it is not heavy on traffic like Lake street it. So what exactly are you losing here? 6 grand - highly doubt it!! We resident pay enough to park on the Oak Park streets either overnight or those of us who have cars but don't own a house with a driveway pay for a space in a lot or garage. It is ridiculous. Sorry but if you live here - parking should be free!!!! Not going to Forest Park for events - their events are substandard compared to Oak Parks! I love living near the festivals and walking to them. I see lot of people find other parking spots down the street and walking a block down to the festival. I am sure NO one is expecting a park spot right in front. It is a street festival after all!

Kathy M%uFFFDller  

Posted: August 7th, 2018 6:21 PM

Very short-sighted on the village's part. If we start chopping away at the things that draw people to buy property here and pay the taxes, we'll eventually punish the real estate market, and then we'll all lose out.

Tom MacMillan from Oak Park  

Posted: August 7th, 2018 6:04 PM

Here is an idea. Lets have less "Village staff". Then there will be less people hanging around dreaming up new fees. Seriously.

Neal Buer  

Posted: August 7th, 2018 5:56 PM

Glad to see the village is recouping their costs. It is not the job of the village to entertain its citizens. Go to Forest Park and let them run the entertainment venues. Nice to see the trustees are becoming more coat conscious.

Jim Coughlin  

Posted: August 7th, 2018 5:49 PM

The Village should be able to provide a detailed breakdown of the expenditures and revenue generated relating to the festivals. Why this information was not made available to board members prior to the implementation of fees is a question that needs to be answered by our Village Manager? What are the Village's costs incurred for A Day in our Village, FLW 10K race, Art in the Park, Summer concerts and movie series, OP-RF football games. graduation ceremonies at local schools and the annual July 4th parade?

Al Rossell  

Posted: August 7th, 2018 5:34 PM

Thought I saw all until I read this article. We give millions to developers where we hope to recoup the money in 10 or 20 years; grant absurd zoning variations in the hopes of getting more revenue in the future. And I guess we just nickel and dime the things that actually bring people to this town until those windfalls actually arrive (assuming they actually will) Never did hear how much the Village lost over the years on the Westgate properties for the Emerson sale. I guess we will get it back at $2,000 to $5,000 a shot from the Village festivals for lost parking, but is it really lost revenue? Maybe the paid lots had an increase in traffic and fees. As far as merging other entities, that surely would be a mistake as it seems their leadership has some common sense and it would be a shame to turn things over to those that may be lacking the same. Time for a recycling of leadership.

Terry Stanton  

Posted: August 7th, 2018 5:22 PM

The bureaucratic mind at work!

Amanda Poppenk Massie from Oak park  

Posted: August 7th, 2018 4:55 PM

Once again, another "Fee" for doing business in Oak Park. Eve already driven business' to Foret Park. Looks like the Festivals will be driven away next. This sure isn't the Oak Park I moved back here for. So disappointing but unfortunately, not a surprise under the current leadership.

Judith Warren  

Posted: August 7th, 2018 4:49 PM

Someone on the village staff seems to be power-tripping. When we forcibly combine with the other government entities, let's be sure to lose those people and keep the ones from the other entities who understand that the village needs these events

Kimberly Humphrey  

Posted: August 7th, 2018 4:40 PM

Just to clarify, the Oak Park Arts District Business Association has always received an invoice from the Village for their services for What's Blooming. This is mostly labor costs for set-up and break down and perfectly reasonable. The logic for this new fee however doesn't exist.

Patricia Skinner  

Posted: August 7th, 2018 4:33 PM

So a year ago the trustees asked Village staff to "look into" recouping additional fees from various festivals and the staff just went ahead and implemented fees without any communication or approval of the Board? Don't know why I'm surprised.

Ramona Lopez  

Posted: August 7th, 2018 4:15 PM

If I'm not mistaken, the events begin at 5:00 p.m. Isn't the lot that sits between Forest and Marion free after 6p.m.? Not sure what time they shut that lot down for the event though. I would suggest someone do a FOIA request to see actual parking revenue on Thursday evenings before 6pm. Wouldn't the sales tax revenue generated on the evening of the event and the potential future sales tax revenue more than offset the loss of parking revenue. Someone didn't think this through very well.

Klara Gabor  

Posted: August 7th, 2018 4:14 PM

Oak Park has for a very long time become the nanny of the people and only gets worse, Look at the neighborhood walk program which is more of a money maker for the village than a service to it. Totally ridiculous things that must be taken care of or else. Many struggle to remain in the village with it's obscene taxes and rules which they also appear to be selective to where and whom they apply. Oak Park is not a very good place to live anymore.

Mike Hanline  

Posted: August 7th, 2018 4:04 PM

Oak Park won't be happy until they tax everyone and everything out of the village.

Amy Srodon  

Posted: August 7th, 2018 4:01 PM

This is the most short-sighted and miserly thing I have ever heard of! The Village should be kissing the feet of the people who organize these events - they are bringing in lots of shoppers/diners who are then patronizing many of Oak Park's small businesses. Why on earth would you penalize organizations that are doing good for the community? It's especially shameful for Blooming on Harrison - I live down the street and Harrison is finally coming alive after years of dealing with boarded up buildings and vacant storefronts. The Blooming on Harrison festival this year was especially good, and they should be applauded for bringing attention and activity to South Oak Park. Here's a thought - the Village should give the festivals grants/stipends to continue doing the great work that they do! I wouldn't be surprised if Forest Park supports its festivals in this way. For shame, Village of Oak Park!

Leonard Grossman  

Posted: August 7th, 2018 3:55 PM

The festivals not only draw visitors a day business to the districts. They build a sense of community. While Forest Park becomes more user friendly , Oak Park increases density with expensive apartments and condos for commuters; housing that has infrastructure costs and burdens far greater than any loss in parking fees.

John Donat from Oak Park  

Posted: August 7th, 2018 3:54 PM

So, we think we're the City of Chicago? The company that runs the parking for them charges for lost revenue anytime there's a festival or a street closing. Shades of Rich Daley! Let's try this again, shall we?

David Montgomery from Oak Park  

Posted: August 7th, 2018 3:49 PM

This additional fee is so mis-guided it is laughable! Oak Park based Groups organize these festivals that bring in people from outside the village to support our businesses and pay sales tax and parking fees, and the Village assesses an exhorbitant fee because some metered parking is out of service during the event ? It would be interesting to hear who, in Village Hall came up with this idea and who approved it. Did the Village Manager approve it ? Outrageous !

Teresa Powell  

Posted: August 7th, 2018 3:47 PM

The reason that there is no mention of a parking fee in the Special Events Ordinance which I helped to draft is because the Board made a decision at that time that there would be no charge for parking spaces closed by festivals. As others have noted, we have ample parking in the area and attendees are spending parking money in our garages. There was never an intent to charge for parking where parking was free. As those former trustees.

Leonard Grossman  

Posted: August 7th, 2018 3:36 PM

Killing the goose. How shortsighted.

Renee Geweniger Zoltowski from Oak Park  

Posted: August 7th, 2018 3:29 PM

So it looks like the festivals will stop here and move to Forest Park too.

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