Evanston residents may see the number of special events along the lakefront more than double in the next few years.
The city is considering new special event criteria that would increase the number of events allowed yearly from 12 to 33. Developed by the parks and recreation board, the new criteria also categorize events as “high impact” and “low impact.”
“The board feels that the lakefront is an asset for us all in Evanston, and it’s limiting,” board member Dan Stein said of the current criteria for special events.
Stein presented a proposal for a new special events policy to members of the human services committee on Monday. Under the old policy, only 12 events spread over 20 days were allowed per year. Precedence has been given to the same events year after year, meaning new applicants are told to reapply the following year, or reroute their event to avoid the lakefront.
In 2012, the human services committee made an exception to the policy and approved a total of 15 events, and in 2013, the committee approved a total of 14.
Under the new proposal, the city would allow six “high-impact” events and 10 “low-impact” events between Memorial Day and Labor Day. During the rest of the year, the city would allow five “high-impact” events and 12 “low-impact” events.
A total of eight criteria would be considered to determine whether an event is high or low impact, including day of the week, number of people, length of time and amplification. Events that meet four criteria or more are considered “high-impact."
Among events that take place every year, the Fourth of July Fireworks and North Shore Century are examples of high-impact events, according to the parks and recreation board. Low impact events include the Ricky Byrdsong 5K race, the free movies in the park and the YMCA campout, among others.
Members of the parks and recreation board also recommended increasing the basic event fee from $100 to $150, and charging a higher fee to organizers of for-profit events or events with more than 250 participants.
Ald. Judy Fiske (1st Ward) said she didn’t feel comfortable allowing commercial entities to run events on the lakefront. But Ald. Jane Grover (7th Ward) noted that it’s common for competitive running events to be organized by for-profit entities.
The issue of commercial vs. nonprofit events came up earlier this year, when aldermen discussed the 2013 special events calendar and considered an application for a Halloween Hustle 5K. The race is run by a for-profit, Evanston-based group called Jet Events that also organized a Turkey Trot in Evanston in 2012.
Ultimately, aldermen decided to approve the Halloween Hustle, but both Ald. Fiske and Ald. Melissa Wynne (2nd Ward), said they had concerns about allowing commercial events to use the lakefront.
Arguing his case before the city council in March, Elliott Weinberg of Jet Events noted that the Chicago Marathon is also produced by a for-profit company, and said it is common practice for most running events.