Outdoor Event Ordinance’s impact on otherwise lawful events
There has been considerable public discussion regarding the county’s proposed Outdoor Event Ordinance. There appears to be some confusion about the proposed ordinance, so I would like to provide background and clarification.
The county has an existing Outdoor Festival Ordinance from the late 1980s. This ordinance requires my office to issue permits for large outdoor music events such as dances, concerts and festivals in the unincorporated area of the county.
These events typically occur on residential and rural properties which do not have appropriate permanent facilities to support the events.
Over the years, my office and the Board of Supervisors have received complaints from neighbors, property owners and tourists about excessive noise, trespassing, traffic, parking, illegal campfires, trash, inadequate sanitation, and other impacts from commercial outdoor events.
In January 2013, the board asked staff to propose updates to the festival ordinance to provide more effective enforcement tools and to create a mechanism by which wineries and other small businesses might hold occasional, temporary outdoor events such as weddings on their properties.
On Sept. 10, 2013, staff presented proposed revisions to the festival ordinance during a public board meeting. Four subsequent revisions have been presented to the board over the ensuing eight months.
Among other things, the latest revision:
— Defines a commercial outdoor event as one where a fee or other financial consideration is charged for participation in, admission to or use of property, or for the sale of goods and services at the event.
— Requires commercial events to obtain a permit from the Sheriff’s office.
— Limits properties to four permits per year.
— Exempts events at facilities which are properly permitted and constructed for outdoor events.
— Exempts certain events conducted by nonprofits and campaign committees.
Property owners or event sponsors who rent property for outdoor weddings, parties or other events, or who charge for attendance, food or goods at an event, are engaged in commercial activity and would be required to obtain a permit under the proposed ordinance.
The wedding/event community has expressed concerns that this ordinance creates new regulations limiting otherwise lawful events at existing venues which will have a widespread impact on their industry. This is not correct.
The proposed ordinance does not apply to outdoor event venues in incorporated areas. The proposed ordinance only applies to the unincorporated area of the county. Properties located within city limits are subject to city regulations.
The proposed ordinance does not affect outdoor event venues who comply with existing county regulations.
Most commercial outdoor event venues are located on residential and rural properties and are subject to existing county land-use regulations.
These regulations have been in effect for many years and require commercial outdoor event venues to obtain a Conditional Use Permit (CUP).
The CUP process is designed to review proposed businesses who want to operate on a regular, permanent basis, on dates and at times of their choosing, over an extended period of time.
Through a CUP, the county reviews proposed businesses and imposes conditions to protect the public health, safety and welfare of surrounding neighbors and ensure traffic, noise, sanitation, building safety and public safety access impacts are mitigated.
Properties which hold commercial outdoor events, including weddings, without a CUP are simply taking the chance they won’t get caught. In the meantime, businesses who have obtained a CUP are justifiably upset that illegal businesses are not competing on a level playing field.
On the other hand, the proposed Outdoor Event Ordinance provides property owners and event sponsors with a more expedited process for occasional, temporary commercial outdoor events.
The proposed ordinance allows my office to review each event on a case-by-case basis and impose reasonable event-specific conditions to protect public health and safety, and minimize impacts to neighbors.
The proposed ordinance does not replace the more rigorous CUP review process for those who want to hold outdoor events on a regular, permanent basis.
The proposed ordinance does not limit private, “by invitation only” events or the activities of service providers.
The proposed ordinance does not require a permit for private events where no money is charged for attendance or use of the property, such as family weddings, parties and reunions.
Service providers such as musicians, photographers, florists, and caterers are not required to obtain an Outdoor Event permit.
Staff has been working with resident and industry representatives to address many of their concerns.
The revised ordinance will be presented to the Nevada County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday for their consideration.
Keith Royal is sheriff of Nevada County.
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