Festival future in Venice questioned

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VENICE, Fla. - For years festival goers in Venice have used land near the local airport. Now a new report reveals it may be dangerous.

Airport officials say some precautions need to be made for now and that in the future the city may need to look somewhere else.

From the Sharks Tooth Festival to the Italian feast & Carnival, a half dozen or more festivals bring thousands of visitors and their money to the Venice each year. "The Festivals have a huge economic impact into the city; not only to the airport and the revenue that's generated, but to the city itself," says Mayor John Holic.

The festivals take place right on Venice Municipal Airport property. Airport administrator Chris Rozansky says a new planning study indicates they may actually be potentially dangerous. "Anytime you have a large congregation of people near an active runway just like you would during an air show, there are certain precautions you would take."

There are concerns that tall structures like a ferris wheel and lighting  could blind and or confuse pilots at night. "A pilot could mistake that for an open runway."

The property, which includes two abandoned runways, is supposed to be for aeronautical uses.  However, a primary directive of the airport is to raise money to support it.

Rozansky says the festivals bring in around $12,000 per year in rent. Despite decades without incident the study recommended that an alternative special events site be explored and established elsewhere.

Holic says they would find someplace if they had to. "If we were somehow told the airport could not not be used under any circumstances for a festival, we would find a different location to do it."

In the short term, the study recommends a stricter application process for those renting the site. Rules such as regulating how lighting can be set up. Also having strict trash pick up to keep birds out of the area, and creating a special zone where tall structures could be placed. "They may be modified to make it safer for the airport but they will not be stopped," says Holic.

Airport officials say at some point they may actually want to build on that land. Saying city officials may soon want to look at other options down the road.

The festival grounds were actually improved over the past year to provide better utilities and running water. It was paid for by the city and a grant by the Gulf Coast Community Foundation.