Wildwood OKs big hike in fees for beach events

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WILDWOOD—Business owners in the city are worried that if Wildwood officials and event holders don’t come to an agreement on beach event fees soon, tourism will seriously suffer.

Haroula Rotondi, who owns the Original Hot Spot on Cedar Avenue and the boardwalk, brought her concerns to the Board of Commissioners during their regular meeting March 12.

 “There has to be a resolution because in-between these two aspects, there’s a lot of people in-between who are going to get hurt,” she said. “I mean, we’re fighting to stay alive up there.”

After a closed-door executive session that night, the Board of Commissioners passed a resolution establishing the fees they plan to charge for beach events.

According to that resolution, an event with fewer than 500 participants will pay $4 per participant for a beach event permit. An event with more than 500 participants but less than 1,500 participants will pay $3 per participant, and an event with more than 1,500 participants will pay $2 per participant.

That means that an event with 500 participants will pay $2,000 for a permit, an event with 1,000 participants will pay $3,000, and an event with 1,500 participants will also pay $3,000.

For an event like Beach Blast, which brings 1,000 teams to Wildwood to compete and about 8,000 players, a permit for that event could cost about $16,000 under the new fee. Event organizers were not immediately available for comment Friday, but sources familiar with the event said the city fees last year were about $2,500.

City Clerk Chris Wood said that on top of the cost of a permit, event holders will also pay for city services, such as public works and police for trash pick-up and safety.

To Rotondi, these fees aren’t going to just trickle down to tourists on vacation. Instead, she said, for an event like Beach Blast, local kids and their families will feel that burden.

“A good majority of them are our kids,” Rotondi said, particularly of those who play in the Cape Express Beach Blast tournament. “Our own children, playing on that beach that their parents already pay taxes for. These are our kids that we are charging.”

Mayor Ernie Troiano insists that these fees are not intended to “chase any event out of town” but to add more recurring revenues to the city’s budget. He said that at the state level, officials have wanted the city to add more recurring revenues to the budget for years.

“We are trying to make sure we balance the responsibility to everyone,” he said during Wednesday’s meeting. “We’ve come up with some plans to generate revenue from the beach to help offset or stabilize taxes.”

He also said that some local event holders had threatened legal action against the city for the move. Others, like Coastal Broadcasting, have pulled events from Wildwood’s altogether.

When asked at the meeting how much it cost the city to host these events, Troiano said he did not have an exact figure.

“We’re down there all year long, maintaining the beach. That’s a lot of work. That’s a lot of taxpayer dollars maintaining that beach,” he said.

At one point during the meeting, city attorney Mary D’Arcy Bittner reminded the commissioners that the fees are a matter of potential litigation.

To Commissioner Pete Byron, who oversees the city’s department of revenue and finance, these new fees are to offset the budget.

“We have a huge issue with our taxes and the budget of the town,” he said. “There’s only so many opportunities the town has to generate income. How much can you tax people? How much can you charge people to park at the meter?”

To city officials, these event fees are just a fraction of what some event holders make from special events.

“When you put what is made and what the city is asking for, you’re talking millions of dollars to pennies. And that money is for tax relief and tax stability,” Troiano said.

As of last Wednesday, the city had not approved any beach events in 2014. But, city officials said the events were expected to go on.

“We’re not here to kill these events,” Troiano said.


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