WILDWOOD — Tourism leaders are hoping to end a stalemate over what fees promoters and organizers should pay to bring their events to the city’s beaches.
Mayor Ernie Troiano Jr. said the city’s taxpayers should not shoulder the burden of the costs associated with maintaining the beach and other costs related to events that draw thousands of people to Wildwood each year.
Previously, city ordinances required fees of $1,500 per two-day event while multiple-day events cost $2,500. A fee schedule also required $10 per vehicle per event for beach vehicle permits, $10 per tent for camping events and $25 per recreational vehicle.
The bulk of that ordinance has since been rescinded and currently reads “the fees applicable to events which may be held on the city beach shall be approved annually by resolution” of City Commission.
So far, no such resolution has been approved, but after a meeting Thursday at the Wildwoods Convention Center, John Siciliano, executive director of the Greater Wildwoods Tourism Improvement and Development Authority, said he expects a new fee schedule would soon be in place.
“It was a very productive meeting,” Siciliano said of the gathering, which included the mayor and representatives of island groups such as the Downtown Business Improvement District and the Greater Wildwoods Hotel and Motel Association.
Siciliano said some details still need to be clarified, but the new fees would be based on the number of participants at an event. An event of more than 1,500 people, for instance, might cost the event organizer $2 per person, and the rate would be adjusted for events of fewer than 1,500 and fewer than 500.
“We’re all just trying to get a mechanism in place,” Siciliano said.
Troiano said last week that while technically no events have been granted permits for the coming season, he expects events will take place as planned.
Morey’s Piers, which hosts a number of events, including the Cape Express Beach Blast Soccer tournament, issued a brief statement about the situation prior to Thursday’s meeting.
“The Morey Organization is aware of the city’s proposal to significantly increase fees for events on the public beach. We are working with GWTIDA and other local organizations and event sponsors to address this issue and are confident that a resolution will be achieved in the near future. All of our events will proceed as scheduled,” said Maggie Warner, digital media and public relations manager for Morey’s.
Siciliano said his organization provides as much as $600,000 a year in event funding to the many activities held locally each year and that those events are crucial to the city and the island.
He said that nearly every event promoter comes to the city through the tourism authority and that the 2014 calendar of events has already been printed and delivered.
Cape May County Tourism Director Diane Wieland said events are essential to the county’s tourism economy.
Last year, 12.4 million visitors came to the county, and 6.1 million of them made overnight trips. The Wildwoods estimate 9 million of those visitors make their way to the island at some point.
“More and more people are looking for an expanded experience, and events are part of that,” Wieland said. “They keep people here longer, and it’s all about overnight stays.”
But Wieland said she understands that cities and towns in the county cannot place the burden of the costs of those events on taxpayers.
“The cities have to do what has to be done,” she said.
North Wildwood Councilman and Boardwalk business owner Sal Zampirri said the role of the events cannot be overstated.
He owns the Hot Spot IV and has been in business for 20 years.
“These events are critical for a successful summer season,” Zampirri said. He represented the Boardwalk Special Improvement District at Thursday’s meeting.
Zampirri said the events mean regular incomes and in turn a stable economy.
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