Outdoor events a boon to county
August 9, 2014
When my family left here in 1955, the mines were history, we had no industry to speak of, and 21 percent of our residents were heading for welfare rolls.
Nineteen years ago, I returned to find a vibrant tourist community supporting an exciting lifestyle for its residents so I purchased the old "Shoemaker's Acres" in Nevada City, a 13-acre agricultural property on which the Shoemakers raised livestock from 1969 to 1995.
A garden designer, I began remodeling the property to offer its use free to local nonprofits for purposes of fundraising.
These NPOs have been here: Indian Springs Bella Nota Classical Concerts, CATS Theater's Luaus, The Welcome Wagon Club, Soroptimist International of Grass Valley, AnimalSave, The Sons of Norway, Nevada City and Grass Valley Chambers of Commerce, Unity Church, Native Daughters of the Golden West, church day retreats, political fundraisers, book signings and seminars.
Eight years ago, our son was married in a garden of my design. Soon, others asked if they could use this space.
As the grounds matured, I needed regular garden help to continue hosting local nonprofits.
I accept only 10 weddings a year; I turn away many. If the outside event ordinance limits me to just four a year, I cannot keep the grounds open for use by anyone. No upkeep, no venue — for weddings or for nonprofits.
It surprised me that our county Board of Supervisors was "unaware" of our wonderful, county-wide wedding industry.
Our Chambers of Commerce have been actively, visibly promoting Nevada County as "The wedding Capital of California" for 10 years.
Hasn't anyone perused the Chambers' websites to see what they promote to bring in much-needed tourist dollars?
Most venue owners are highly responsible; we never attempted to dodge the radar.
Years ago, I asked Nevada City if I needed a permit to rent out my property. They said, "You live in the county."
I called the county and was told there was no permit necessary for me to use my property in this way. Still, I wanted to be completely transparent so I applied for, and was granted, a fictitious name: Jan Roth dba The Roth Estate.
I remain unconvinced that our elected officials have a firm grasp of the real money our county stands to lose if the outdoor event ordinance is passed without realistic modification or, better yet, weddings are addressed in their own ordinance.
Short-term weddings bear little resemblance to three-day festivals. How can we be fairly governed by the old festival ordinance?
The 55 weddings held on the estate these past eight years (average six to seven per year,) have generated nearly $3 million for our county (85 percent of my clients are nonresidents, here for their dreamed-of "destination wedding."
They pull out all the stops to do it right).
Put a pencil to it:
— Venue = $3,000 to $5,000.
— Wedding planner = $1,000 to 45,000.
— Caterer = $7,000 (175 guests at $40/per person).
— Photographer = $500 to $8,000.
— Florist = $1,500 to $4,000.
— Band/DJ = $800 to $4,500.
If only 100 guests stay the weekend in hotels, B&Bs, VRBOs (Vacation Rental By Owner) and pay $250 per person for three nights of lodging, that's $25,000. Meals, at $175 per person, is another $17,500.
Local vendors rent: tables, chairs, linens, decor, hair, makeup, cars/limos/shuttles; liberal shopping and entertainment dollars are dropped in our coffers by celebratory guests.
I am blessed with fabulous neighbors, I have letters of encouragement from nearly all of them:
"What you provide to the community is wonderful." "We are supporters of your lovely facility and the events held there." "You have always been so considerate of us …"
We are a cohesive neighborhood because our communication channels are open and we respect each other. My neighbors know I meet and speak with every musician and DJ that comes to the estate and insist that all music ceases at 9:30 p.m. I am always nearby with a decibel meter.
So, do I think the wedding industry should be regulated? Absolutely — just as other businesses are. And like they are, venues should be evaluated as to suitability on a case-by-case basis.
I don't envy the position of our supervisors — they are walking the slippery slope trying to keep everyone happy in this paradise we call home.
I trust they will find a way for the wonderful people of Nevada County to peacefully coexist without senselessly forfeiting the significant tourist dollars so many of us have been working diligently these past 10 years to bring in here!
Jan Roth lives in Nevada City.
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