News: 1999-06.14-VacavillePermits

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T: Faire wins 1-year permit
S: Planning commission grants approval to Renaissance Faire.
A: Sean Gillespie/Staff Writer
C: (c) 1999 The Reporter 

Vacaville will play host to the Renaissance Pleasure Faire this summer based on a one-year approval from the Planning Commission on Tuesday night.

Commissioners listened to seven complaints alleging traffic congestion, crime, and immorality but heard even more testimony in support for the fair's cultural and economic potential before concluding the four-hour public hearing with a 6-1 vote in favor.

The fair, put on by Renaissance Entertainment Corp. of Mill Valley, is stopping in Vacaville at the former Nut Tree Restaurant for one year while its permanent home in Antioch is being prepared.

The 17-day event, spread over eight weekends from Aug. 28 to Oct. 16, will offer 16th-century entertainment that includes jousting exhibitions, a falconry, and craft demonstrations like glass blowing, blacksmithing, and candlemaking.

Renaissance Entertainment is estimating to conduct $5 million in sales this summer, translating into $50,000 in sales taxes for the city's general fund.

Last year there were negotiations to bring the fair to the city-owned Lagoon Valley Park, but that plan was quashed because there wasn't enough land for parking.

Much of the city staff's concerns revolved around traffic congestion resulting from the projected 10,000 daily visitors in a projected 6,000 automobiles coming from Sacramento and the Bay Area. But commissioners felt the plans for extra police patrol - at the expense of REC - and added highway signs would be enough to make the streets passable.

"That's life," said Commissioner Chuck Dimmick. "There are always ways in and out. If you live in town, I think there are ways of getting around the bottleneck."

Commissioner Steve Williams suggested that the fair could be a case study from traffic engineers for future permanent activity at the Nut Tree, which has lain dormant since the restaurant along Interstate 80 closed five years ago.

"At some point, if the Nut Tree is going to be developed as some people propose, there are going to be significant changes to the traffic flows in that area," he said.

Other support for the fair came from a handful of the 100 vendors and 1,000 entertainers from Vacaville and elsewhere, who said they participate because it's a wholesome, stimulating environment.

But some residents said the opposite.

Laurel Mann asserted that crime would go up and that she doubted the likelihood the fair would spur economic activity throughout the city based on her conversations with the owners of a delicatessen and antique shop near the former Novato site. The owners, according to Mann, said they did no business during the fair's weekends.

"My concern is what would happen to the businesses ... if the fair were to come to Vacaville," she said.

But Gary Tatum, executive director of the Vacaville Chamber of Commerce, disagreed. He said the fair would be an economic benefit and, as a former police chief here, said the crime would be a non-factor.

"The crime that occurred there in a two-year period didn't equal what happened here in one Fiesta (Days) week," Tatum said.

Commissioner Ray Drake, the only vote against the fair, said he had severe reservations and wanted to err on the side of caution.

"The last thing I want is to be right on this one," Drake said.