Littleton Block Party canceled after permit dispute

South Metro Fire asked too much, says organizer Greg Reinke

Posted 5/17/19

The Littleton Block Party, scheduled for June 8, is canceled. Greg Reinke, organizer of the annual street fair, said permitting for the event — which would be in its 15th year — was hampered by …

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Littleton Block Party canceled after permit dispute

South Metro Fire asked too much, says organizer Greg Reinke

Posted

The Littleton Block Party, scheduled for June 8, is canceled.

Greg Reinke, organizer of the annual street fair, said permitting for the event — which would be in its 15th year — was hampered by cumbersome bureaucratic wrangling with South Metro Fire Rescue, which took over fire protection in Littleton in January.

South Metro, however, said it worked with Reinke to get permits approved and would like to see the event go on as planned.

“We certainly want to be a good partner in the community,” said South Metro spokesperson Kristin Eckmann. “It's never our intention to change historical events. We know things are new and different after the merger, but our goal is to be supportive and collaborative.”

The surprise cancellation of the Block Party is a disappointment, said City of Littleton spokesperson Kelli Narde.

“It's really unfortunate,” Narde said. “Lots of people love the Block Party. It's great for merchants, residents count on it, and it's the unofficial kickoff of summer in Littleton.” Narde estimated 6,000 to 8,000 people attended last year's event.

Reinke said planning for the event went smoothly with Littleton Fire Rescue in years past, but found South Metro's permit application process time-consuming and overbearing.

“I couldn't get them to sit down with me and just talk things out,” Reinke said.

Eckmann said South Metro personnel stayed in touch with Reinke.

“We spoke with him over the phone multiple times to ensure that we collaborated and worked together to receive all the necessary documentation for the permit to be approved,” Eckmann said.

Reinke also said he was blindsided by the cost of South Metro's permits: $483 for a special event permit and $1,123 for a pyrotechnics permit to cover costs related to inspecting and protecting two fireworks displays. Reinke paid $150 a year for special event and pyrotechnic permitting under Littleton Fire, he said.

The pyrotechnic permit fee covers a plan review, pre-event inspection, oversight during the display, the cost to keep a firetruck on standby and a post-event inspection, Eckmann said.

The final straw, Reinke said, was on May 13 when he found out South Metro would require a 20-foot-wide right-of-way down Main Street, which he said was double what Littleton Fire used to require and would preclude several of the five planned stages for bands.

Eckmann said the 20-foot right-of-way is mandated by international fire code and is essential to making sure emergency personnel can quickly access all areas of the festival.

Asked why he couldn't just host fewer bands or use fewer stages, Reinke said, “Why not just go to Disneyland with all the rides closed? Why don't I just make the Block Party kind of OK? You know why people love the Block Party? Because it's over the top. If you want it just OK, there are plenty of people you can hire.”

Reinke said he also encountered some trouble with the City of Littleton, including a dispute over how many portable toilets would be required, but found city staff willing to work with him.

The bottom line, Reinke said, was that too many “stumbling blocks” were piling up.

“I've learned over the years that if you start hitting a lot of obstacles, when there are a lot of hoops to jump through and there's lots of money involved, it's time to stop,” Reinke said.

The money to run the event comes from the Historic Downtown Littleton Merchants Association, of which Reinke is president, and he said he wants to be cautious with its cash.

“Let's say we roll the dice, and the costs just keep coming in, who's going to pay for that?” Reinke said. “I feel horrible, but this is necessary.”

Eckmann said Reinke can still come pick up the permits if he changes his mind. Reinke said he wasn't aware his permits had been approved and found out from a news reporter.

The special event permit was approved on May 13, according to documents provided by South Metro, the same day Reinke canceled the event. The pyrotechnic permit, which was in its third round following two prior rejections asking for more information, is still listed as unapproved pending a letter of permission from the landowner where the fireworks were slated to be launched.

The back-and-forth over the permits and regulations got to be too much, Reinke said, especially as he is dealing with litigation over the roof of Reinke Bros., the costume shop and Halloween emporium he runs on Prince Street.

Reinke is suing a company that installed a new roof on the building after a 2014 hailstorm, according to court records. Reinke had to empty the store to allow for the roof replacement in 2016 and halted his annual Halloween haunted house, which only returned in 2018.

The newly installed roof isn't up to code, Reinke said, and cannot be approved by city inspectors. Replacing the roof again will likely require him to shut down the shop through the forthcoming Halloween season, the shop's busiest time of year.

“I told everyone I needed to be wrapped up with permitting the Block Party by May 13, because I'm also focusing on the lawsuit,” Reinke said.

But Reinke said he's confident the Block Party will come back in years to come.

“Next year we'll get 10 times the people, because they'll know what happened," he said, "and they'll be excited it's back.”

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