NEW ORLEANS -- Great music, unique art and some of the best food around, all served up this year with a side of controversy. For the first time since the Mid-City Bayou Boogaloo started after Hurricane Katrina, the city is considering charging organizers a fee to stage the event on the banks of Bayou St. John.
"It's just a perfect location for an event for a festival or other family picnics or things like that," said Jared Zeller, president of the Mothership Foundation, which produces the festival. "Obviously, I'm on the side of using the space along Bayou St. John as a public space."
The city is researching the issue and reviewing options for a potential fee structure based on fair market value.
A city spokesman says to date, the only fees the city collects from groups using the land along Bayou St. John are a refundable sanitation fee and fees for fire and police services.
Neighbors want to keep access to the bayou free and open. But, they say a nominal fee is appropriate.
"You don't want to set it too high where you discourage this kind of event," said paddle-boarder John Ettinger. "I understand this organization does some volunteer work as well. I think they're going to help out with the bridge and do some planting and stuff, so you'd want to take that into account as well."
City Councilmember Susan Guidry says potential fees would be offset by the contributions of the land user.
"When someone wants exclusive use of public land, then under the state constitution, there's suppose to be value paid," said Guidry.
New city fees were waived this year, while all sides meet to establish fair market value.
"We were in meetings today on special events and we are going to continue meeting until we get this smoothed out," said Guidry.
Bayou Boogaloo has been free event for the past nine years. But organizers admit that might not be the case next year, particularly if the city starts charging to use the land along the bayou.
"If they maintain the fees that they proposed this year, prior to the waiver and that's set in stone next year, I don't see how I keep the festival free at that point," said Zeller.
Zeller estimates city fees could be as high as $22,000 for the three day event.