Court rules in Ohio Renaissance Festival village detachment request

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

A Warren County judge has ruled the Ohio Renaissance Festival cannot detach from the village of Harveysburg.

Common Pleas Judge Donald E. Oda III ruled March 26 Brimstone & Fire LLC, the owner of the medieval festival, did not meet all of the necessary elements for detaching from the village as required by state law.

Oda said of the four elements required, Brimstone & Fire failed to prove it was taxed for municipal purposes in substantial excess of the benefits received from the village; and found detachment of the property would have a substantial negative impact on the best interest and good government of the village.

Brimstone & Fire filed a petition Dec. 30, 2022 in Warren County Common Pleas Court to detach from Harveysburg and make it part of neighboring Massie Twp. Harveysburg opposed the civil claimand said it could provide better services. They also said the village was threatening to impose a targeted entertainment tax that could raise ticket prices by as much as $2.

For 25 years, the village received a community development fee from the festival. In 2022, the fee accounted for $44,000 of the village’s revenue.

Over the years, the village has relied on this revenue it received from the property. While the festival owner suggested the court should look at the impact of losing property taxes, the court found it appropriate to look at the loss of an admissions tax that was approved in November 2023.

The court found that if the detachment was granted, the village could not impose an admissions tax and that would have a negative impact on the village’s finances.

The court also found the detachment would impact the village’s ability to enforce criminal laws, traffic violations, and zoning/building codes on the property, but the traffic and disruption to the community as a result of the large number of people traveling to the events.

The court found that detaching the property would create “a substantially negative impact on the best interest and good government of the Village.”

The village admission tax is estimated to generate an additional $150,000 to $180,000 a year for the village mostly from visitors to the Ohio Renaissance Festival, according to former council president Mark Tipton.

The Ohio Renaissance Festival routinely attracts more than 200,000 visitors a year, according to Scott Hutchinson of the Warren County Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“I think the response from the judge was spot on,” said Harveysburg Mayor Jonathan Funk. “We’re trying to come to a happy median. We love the Renaissance Festival

New Harveysburg Mayor Jonathan Funk said the 3% admissions tax would be added to the festival’s admission ticket which was $32 last year.

Last November, Tipton said the tax would also apply to carnivals, recreational activities and equipment, live or recorded performances, exhibitions or displays, spectator sports, entertainment events, participatory sports, games and activities. Tipton also said the village is permitted to charge admission taxes up to 8% under state law.

David Ashcraft of Brimstone and Fire said he “was not surprised by the ruling. It’s a complicated thing.”

Ashcraft said they are proposing the creation of a Joint Economic Development District with Harveysburg and Massie Twp. to create a better structure for festival and local governments.

He also said the festival will be transitioning to date specific ticketing to better control crowds coming to the event.

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