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Trickle of permit applications so far for Formula 1 race

Thursday, October 18, 2012 by Michael Kanin

Applications for events set around next month’s widely anticipated Formula 1 U.S. Grand Prix are so far coming in at a slow trickle, though city staffers expect the pace to pick up as the mid-November race approaches.


According to Austin’s Public Information Office, the city’s health department is processing three permit applications for Formula 1-related events, as is the Planning and Development Review Department. Austin Fire officials say they have received only one permit application associated with the race.


However, both Planning and Development Review officials and their colleagues at the health department anticipate a far greater number. Health officials told In Fact Daily that they expect to handle “at least 100 applications … between events at the track itself, the two major festivals in downtown Austin, and various other venues throughout the city and the county.”


The planning department will handle Temporary Use Permits for non-food vendors. The health department will take care of Temporary Food Permits for food vendors. The Fire Department will sign off on Temporary Change of Use Permits for venues without a Certificate of Occupancy.


There has been no end to (likely accurate) speculation about the severe traffic congestion and general frustration that may accompany the F1 circus, which is expected to draw 120,000 people when it arrives at the racetrack in southeast Travis County. A glance at the permit situation gives Austinites another view of the race weekend, Nov. 16-18.


Formula 1 visitors are expected to begin arriving well before the official start of the race. Crowds are expected to attend two festivals and more than a handful of parties attached to race weekend. The city is also expecting vendors of all types to inundate the region.


The F1 permit applications drop another load on city departments that already deal with the many large-scale festivals that call Austin home. These include this past weekend’s Austin City Limits event – already expanded to another weekend next year – next month’s Fun Fun Fun Festival, and, of course the annual March epic South by Southwest.


Planning staff put forward a number similar to that of their health department colleagues. “They had 12 permits for (Austin City Limits) and 90 for (South by Southwest),” city spokesperson Samantha Park told In Fact Daily via email. “They are anticipating the trend to be similar to that of (South by Southwest).”


Park said that city Fire officials would not speculate on the number of permits that they might review.


Health department officials, speaking only about health permitting, said that they expect the volume of action to be “slightly higher compared to either” Austin City Limits or South by Southwest. They reported 56 permit applications for ACL. Information for this year’s edition of South by Southwest was not available.


City officials hosted a press conference Wednesday morning where they unveiled a set of deadlines for permit applications. Vendors have until Nov. 5 to apply for a Temporary Use permit from planning. Party hosts looking to hold their event at a building without a certificate of occupancy also have until November 5 to begin the process for a Temporary Change of Use permit.


In addition, the cut off for one-day permits from Austin’s Music Department for live bands or DJs is Oct. 24.


Some estimates put the economic impact of Formula 1 week at roughly $300 million, which would make it among the city’s largest money-making events.

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