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Event-permit revisions sought

January 20, 2009|By HEATHER KEELS

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- The Washington County Commissioners on Tuesday requested further revisions to a draft ordinance that would require permits for certain special events, with some commissioners complaining it created too many hoops through which planners must jump.

The ordinance, authorized last year by the Maryland General Assembly, would apply to events that require road closures or other special assistance, as well as certain large entertainment and athletic events, such as concerts, carnivals and races, depending on expected attendance.

Depending on the details of the event, planners could be required to show proof of insurance, submit a site plan or route map, pay a permit fee and get approvals from several departments.

"Unless you are used to going through a bureaucratic system and trying to get a lot of stuff signed off on, this is going to seem pretty overwhelming," Commissioner James F. Kercheval said.

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Permits and Inspections Director Daniel DeVito said the process would be simpler than it sounds. Planners would fill out an application detailing what they want to do, then sit down with a permitting official, who would determine which approvals are necessary based on what the event would include. For example, road closures would require law enforcement approval, food sales would require Health Department approval and tip jar sales would require Gaming Office approval.

"How many hoops they have to jump through depends on the scope and what they're trying to do," DeVito said.

Many of these approvals are already required, so meeting with a permitting official could actually simplify the process, Sheriff Douglas W. Mullendore said.

"People don't really know who to contact or when they're required to fall under a regulatory agency," he said.

DeVito said when event planners don't know to get approvals, it creates extra work for the county.

"Most of the time as it is, we have to run around after the fact trying to catch them and stop them," he said.

Commissioners raised several issues with the ordinance as drafted. Kercheval said he thought there should be a requirement for agencies to consider the permit request within a certain time frame, and Commissioner Kristin B. Aleshire asked whether planners could be held accountable if they underestimate the number of spectators.

Assistant County Attorney Andrew F. Wilkinson said he would look into the issues raised and bring a revised draft to the commissioners in two weeks.

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