Fayetteville businesses seek changes to permit approval process for large events

Bikes, Blues & BBQ closes Dickson Street and other public areas to vehicular traffic each year for their annual motorcycle rally. Some local businesses are petitioning for city council approval for events closing public property that last two or more days in Fayetteville.

A group of local business owners are circulating a petition in hopes of changing the way large event permits are approved in Fayetteville.

Cary Arsaga, owner of several coffee shops and restaurants in Fayetteville including The Depot just off Dickson Street, is leading the charge, seeking a more formal and public approval process for events that take place on public property.

Arsaga said he became curious about the special event permit process through discussions he had with local business owners and residents in the wake of last month’s Bikes, Blues & BBQ festival.

Currently, special events permits are approved internally by Fayetteville city staff through an application process.

Peter Nierengarten, the city’s sustainability and resilience director, is currently in charge of the special event process. Nierengarten said there are basically three types of permits available to special event planners in Fayetteville, and that each require their own level of internal approval. Most major events, Nierengarten said, are ultimately approved by the mayor.

Arsaga said the biggest issue for he and other business owners with the current process is that it does not currently include a public forum for them to express their concerns about the impact large events like Bikes, Blues & BBQ have on their businesses.

“That is the biggest frustration,” he said. “Obviously when something gets that large, it has an impact on a lot of people. We just want the opportunity to have a forum on it and discuss our concerns.”

The changes outlined in Arsaga’s petition suggest that special events which close public streets, parks, or parking lots for two or more days should be subject to City Council approval, which would at least provide an opportunity for public comment.

Nierengarten said a handful of events in Fayetteville would be subject to the new rule if it were put in place. Bikes, Blues & BBQ is an obvious one. Fayetteville Roots Festival purchased some parking spaces from the city during their event for three days, he said, and a Walmart Shareholders-associated event recently closed a city parking lot for three days.

Arsaga said the petition has been available to sign for about a week at his and six other businesses around Fayetteville. He said he also collected some signatures at the Fayetteville Farmers’ Market last week. He said he believes the signatures he gathered there and at his Dickson Street business total around 200 so far, not counting the ones collected at the other business.

He has also received positive feedback from a few city council members interested in sponsoring a resolution similar to what is being circulated on the petition.

Mayor Lioneld Jordan said Wednesday that he is aware of Arsaga’s petition, though he’s not ready to weigh in on the specific proposal yet.

“I fully support the citizens right to petition their elected leaders,” Jordan said. “I can’t tell you what I’m going to do about this one until I see it come to the council, but if the council decides they want to look at events over two days, then that’s what we’ll do.”

Bikes, Blues & BBQ director Joe Giles also said that he is aware of the petition, but that he hasn’t heard from petitioners about what their ultimate goals are.

“I suspect that it is some businesses that don’t see a benefit from the rally, and that they are trying to take care of themselves,” he said. “I fully understand that need. I don’t have a problem with that.”

Language from the petition

At this time, the city of Fayetteville has no forum for citizen input in the permitting process for major events and festivals. If an organization wishes to get a Major Event Permit, they must fill out standard forms and obtain the signature of the Mayor.

We believe there is a better approach for Fayetteville. If an organization wishes to host an event that would use city parking lots and/or parks and close down public streets for MORE than two days, this should require City Council approval.

This process would allow citizens a forum to discuss the value of the event to the city. Major festivals affect our entire city and help define our community. Allowing for citizen input and approval through our elected leaders is fair and appropriate.

Therefore, we the undersigned request the City Council adopt an ordinance that requires City Council approval as a final step in the permitting process for any major event that proposes to close city streets, parks and/or parking lots for two or more days.