Windermere leaders convened to discuss the impact of events held in Town Square at the Town Council Workshop Tuesday, Aug. 22.
Public Works Director Tonya Elliott-Moore said as the town was working through the proposed pavilion discussion, it became apparent there was concern as to the frequency and size of various events held in Town Square.
The most common concerns voiced by residents regarding events are parking, noise and attendance by non-Windermere residents.
“We were hearing some concern about the types, the amounts, the size, the scope, the scale of some of our events … what we want our events to be and look like and what we want our processes to be,” Mayor Jim O’Brien said. “This is not to say we don’t want all these events; it’s not to say we don’t want more events. It’s to say, ‘What is the level of impact?’ (It is to) assess each event for the level of impact to the community and the target audience, and whom it benefits, etc., to make sure that we’re being smart with the events that we support and select.”
SEARCHING FOR SOLUTIONS
To assist the surrounding residents, Elliot-Moore said staff has met and is searching for ways to try to minimize the impact of the events.
Possible solutions include reducing the size, frequency and scale of the food truck events; ensuring entertainment is strictly adhering to the noise ordinance during events; and working with the Windermere Police Department on the possibility of adding additional off-duty officers for event nights.
Another option would be continuing to eliminate food truck events, which the town has done for June, July and August.
Furthermore, the town could require any additional events with more than 1,000 attendees to submit a special event permit and have a public outreach/work session prior to going to Town Council for approval. Public Works could purchase signage to identify areas where no parking is allowed for events; and staff could continue to look for additional areas where parking can be accommodated.
Elliott-Moore said staff will continue to work with the residents surrounding Town Square but would like some additional guidance from the Town Council relative to events.
Current events include Food Truck Night, Elder Luncheons, Craft Beer Fest, Arbor Day Tree Giveaway, Windermere Wine & Dine, Windermere Art Show, Windermere PetFest, Operation Easter Bunny, Cops & Bobbers, Run Among the Lakes, and Holiday Hoopla.
For private Town Hall rentals, Elliot-Moore said staff is working with the police department to ensure renters are adhering to the noise ordinance.
Council Member Mandy David believes the requirements of any additional events more than 1,000 attendees are a good idea — with a few concerns.
“My only drawback with that is for Parks and Recreation their events are to fund for improvements at the park, and I know that their events are highly attended,” she said. “So, I just have a fear that’s going to limit them unless the town is interested in giving more funding for improvements of the parks.”
Council Member Tom Stroup asked if there was an opportunity to move some of the larger events to OUC park, while resident Donna Steele suggested using the Windermere Recreation Center for events.
Although the park would cost additional funds, Elliott-Moore said these are possibilities the town can consider.
Council Member Andy Williams enjoys the town events and believes because they have grown throughout the years, there may be ways the town can help to better accommodate and assist the event organizers to minimize impact.
Parks and Recreation Chair Nora Brophy thinks parking needs to be addressed.
“We could probably add some special event parking,” she said. “I know that’s a big complaint that people have, and I understand it. … I live downtown, and I don’t like people parking in front of my house. But I think with some more work with the town, maybe we can do better on the parking, and that should be a big help.”
CT Allen, leader of the Windermere Wine & Dine, is not sure if it is these specific town events that have the major issues.
“If you really drill down to this issue, there are events run by residents who are volunteering their time who are residents and live here full-time and are giving back to the town,” she said. “Food Truck (Night) is not a town resident-driven event. I think that is a situation that should be looked at a little bit more closely.”
Resident Rick Mitchell believes the town should not change or eliminate the events.
“Come on guys: This is three events,” he said. “You’re … bending to the minority. When you buy a house … near public property in Town Hall, you’re going to have this stuff. It’s like three hours. It’s like two to four hours each. It’s not a big deal.”
Stroup, who lives in the downtown area, said most of the events happening in the town now were not present 25 years ago.
“We have to continue to address this as things happen,” he said. “We can’t just say, ‘Well, you shouldn’t have moved downtown.’ These are issues that are a real concern. … All we’re saying as residents who live downtown is that we want a voice to speak for our neighborhood, which is downtown. All of us, most of us, do go to these events, and I don’t want to nix any of them, to be honest with you. I like them all. All I’m saying is just some rules and regulations for them so we can enjoy them, too.”
Council Member Tony Davit loves what the events bring to the community, but he also cautioned the council against listening to a few individuals as opposed to the whole town.
“What we’re hearing is a lot of vocal opposition to these events from folks (who) live down and around the downtown (area),” he said. “I love the idea of trying to locate other areas to try to hold some of these events. … Do we need to tweak parking? Absolutely. But what I caution is trying to parse out what is the event that we’re going to hold versus the events we’re not going to hold based on some point system or some arbitrary judgment on it, because there’s some very vocal opposition.”