By Donald Wittkowski
A new special events permit that is part of tighter security requirements for large shows, festivals and other family-friendly attractions in Sea Isle City may need some tweaking, according to local business leaders.
City Council introduced an ordinance on July 24 that would require the permit for special events held at public parks or on other municipal property. Council has scheduled a public hearing and final vote on the measure at its meeting this Tuesday.
One of the major requirements in the ordinance is that organizers will have to submit an application for a city permit at least 180 days prior to holding their event. They will also be required to supply a litany of background information about themselves and the event in the permit application.
However, the Sea Isle City Chamber of Commerce and Revitalization said an exception may have to be made for events already scheduled this year and in 2019 that would take place within the next 180 days. With those events, it would be impossible to file a permit application prior to 180 days, Chamber officials noted.
“My suggestion is to add a grandfather clause for the 180 days for events that are already on the books and advertised,” Chamber President Christopher Glancey said.
The Chamber has a series of special events lined up in coming months that are designed to attract large crowds to Sea Isle. They include the Octoberfest celebration on Oct. 20 and the Holiday Extravaganza on Nov. 23-24 featuring ice skating, caroling and a tree lighting ceremony in Sea Isle’s Excursion Park.
Throughout the summer, the Chamber sponsors Sea Isle’s Farmers Market every Tuesday in Excursion Park. It is a popular attraction, allowing residents and tourists to buy fresh fruits and vegetables from local farms. Glancey questioned whether a special events permit would be needed for the Farmers Market.
Glancey also said organizers of Sea Isle’s signature Polar Bear Plunge weekend in February may not be able to make the 180-day filing deadline for a special events permit in 2019. Polar Bear Plunge annually attracts tens of thousands of visitors to town in the middle of winter for a weekend of partying, dining and shopping – capped off by a chilly dip in the ocean.
“So, it’s a whole new permit,” Glancey said during a discussion at the Chamber’s monthly board meeting on Aug. 7. “No one’s saying it’s not a necessary permit, because in this day and age we all want to be safe.”
Glancey noted that the Chamber is certainly willing to meet the requirements for the new permit in years to come. But he plans to ask Council what should be done to accommodate the Chamber’s events that are already scheduled for this year and in 2019 and fall within the 180-day window.
“We’ll go and ask some questions to get some clarification,” Glancy said of Tuesday’s Council meeting.
City Solicitor Paul Baldini explained that the 180-day requirement will give Sea Isle’s Department of Community Services plenty of time to review the permit to determine if stepped-up security would be needed for an event. It would be particularly important for large events having at least 1,000 people, he said.
“This ordinance is really designed to capture bigger events and comply with the new requirements,” Baldini said in an interview after the ordinance was introduced by Council on July 24.
Events of 1,000 people or more will be scrutinized by Sea Isle’s police chief and would also have to comply with any security recommendations from the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness, the ordinance says.
Depending on the event, temporary or permanent security measures could be put in place to improve public safety, Baldini said. He mentioned the possibility of installing bollards, metal posts that protect people from ramming attacks by a vehicle.
Cars and trucks have been used in a series of deadly terror attacks in the United States, Canada and Europe. Eight people were killed and a dozen injured when a suspected terrorist rammed a rented pickup truck into pedestrians and bikers in New York City last year.
“Sea Isle doesn’t want it to be us,” Baldini said, alluding to the New York attack.
With its new ordinance, Sea Isle is joining with other towns in New Jersey that are just starting to tighten security and safety requirements for special events to comply with the requirements of the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness.
Sea Isle’s new ordinance will allow the city to have the organizers reimburse it for additional costs that are needed for “maintaining the general health, safety and welfare of attendees or participants in the special event or the community in general,” according to the language.