County revisits festival permit rules after complaint

Shenandoah County officials are revisiting the festival permit process after a nonprofit group complained about enforcement.

The Strasburg Blues Society plans to hold an outdoor music festival at the Strasburg Lodge No. 403 Loyal Order Of Moose on Red Bud Road outside town limits in June. Organization representative Dominick Salemi said the event would benefit the Moose Heart Foundation and the Strasburg Volunteer Fire Department and Rescue Squad.

Lodge administrator Ron Downey said Tuesday that the Moose chapter has not needed permits in the past to hold private events for members. In this case, an outside group would use the lodge’s property for a festival that will be open to the public, Downey explained. The Moose Lodge, as decreed by its rules, follows all state and local regulations and that includes obtaining a permit when required, he added. Downey said he looks forward to helping the organization host the event.

The county requires event organizers submit various documents with their festival permit application, including plans for adequate traffic control, food, water, lodging and fire protection along with medical, sanitation and parking facilities. Organizers must receive approval for these plans from the local Department of Health and the fire marshal, among other officials.

The county ordinance requires the organizers of any event expected to draw more than 100 people to obtain a permit. The county administrator can approve or deny a permit request for a festival expected to draw 100-500 people. A festival with more than 500 people must receive approval by the Board of Supervisors. The county does not charge a fee for the permit.

Brandon Davis, director of the Office of Community Development, said recently that he received the application for the permit from the Moose Lodge. The county administrator and the sheriff would need to sign off on the request. The Board of Supervisors likely will not need to endorse the application because of the number of people expected to attend.

“But the same considerations are still in place: You still have to make sure you have enough port-a-potties and the food that you’re serving is safe and there’s a fire access plan and traffic control and the most basic measures of public safety are in place,” Davis said.

Salemi said recently that he had no complaints with Davis but voiced concern that County Administrator Mary T. Price seemed to admit selective enforcement of the regulations. Price on Tuesday wouldn’t comment on the accusation but said the county is revisiting the ordinance in part because it was adopted in 1973.

The regulations and requirements for festival permits are especially important now, given the safety they seek to ensure at the events, Price noted.

The county and the Board of Supervisors have, in recent years, approved permits for the annual Germanfest held by the Shenandoah Germanic Heritage Museum near Toms Brook and the Civilian Military Combine event at Bryce Resort.

Davis said, “This whole conversation has caused us to take a look at the ordinance. So we’re gonna look at the ordinance and make sure that it’s considered the way it needs to be.

“As far as groups out there that are having events, you know, I’m not personally aware of any that have done it,” Davis added. “Now that being said, I’m sure there are some out there because, the way the ordinance is written, it takes a pretty broad sweep at when you need to apply for this permit. But it’s just been one of those pieces of code that we enforce to the best of our ability when we know of something that’s required.”

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com