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Proposal for new division, special event and filming permit process in Cleveland inches forward despite pushback from city council members

Posted at 7:06 AM, Dec 07, 2021

CLEVELAND — Applying for a permit in the city of Cleveland for special events or filming can be a hassle.

“The existing process is an analog process, so when somebody wants to apply for a permit, they have to email a PDF and that's marched around to all the various agencies for approvals,” said Bill Garvey, president of the Greater Cleveland Film Commission.

Right now, the permit process is overseen by one woman; Esha Hand, the city’s manager of events.

“We have had an organization that did not have a pleasant experience with the permitting process and have stated that they are not coming, returning to Cleveland,” she told city council members.

Though the idea of streamlining that permit process digitally with the help of a new division through the department of public works could help.

“We are becoming more creative and evolving and bringing folks outside, utilizing the streets [and] our public spaces. With that, this division will provide a centralized location being an intermediary liaison for the bureaucratic process, so we are able to translate all of the necessary approvals and permits to the organizers,” Hand explained.

Public Works Director Michael Cox agreed.

“We got the NBA coming in, the NFL was here, and there are other events, large events that are out there that we can bring to our city. We’re not through.”

The division would have about eight employees and a proposed budget of about $800,000.

“We are looking to the staff up this division and make sure that we're getting all the permits, our coordination, all the things that we have to do to put on a special event,” Cox said.

It's an update Garvey says his team has been waiting for as the idea is already implemented in other cities.

“There's so many various permits involved in what we do and a lot of changing factors, including weather. So, a lot of the time we have to change our schedule because of that and that requires a quicker turnaround,” he said. “It's essential to the growth of our industry here, and we are trying to bring more movies and more out-of-state investment into Northeast Ohio and obviously, with that income comes more logistics and more permits and more applications.”

However, some council members aren't convinced this is necessary.

“Why the need for this special department now when we've gotten pretty much all the big major national events out of the way and we were able to successfully put those on,” Ward 16 Councilman Brian Kazy asked.

Meanwhile, others like Ward 15 Councilwoman Jenny Spencer, are requesting more time to consider.

“I do have some hesitation related to this piece and will be giving it a lot of thought.”

Ward 8 Councilman Michael Polensek echoed saying, “I'd like to hear what the comments are from a new administration taking office in January. Give them an opportunity to look at this.”

The push for change right now is on temporary hold as the legislation awaits a final vote before being granted official approval.