Festival Permit Changes

Published 4:47 pm Thursday, February 2, 2012

CUMBERLAND – County Planning Commission members moved on with reviewing proposed amendments to Cumberland's Code related to festivals and special events during the Commission's meeting last month.

Cumberland's planners went to work on in January, reviewing and recommending, after holding its own public hearing, that the proposed changes move forward to the Board of Supervisors for consideration and a public hearing at its next meeting.

According to Bret Schardein, county planning director, Cumberland's current practice of classifying all events as the same and permitting them all through individual festival permits gives the County “very little ability to ensure the events are run in a safe and clean manner and that they do not detract from neighboring properties.”

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The current proposal up for final adoption by County Supervisors would give greater detail to the type, frequency and intensity of events, classify them in different categories and restructure how they are permitted-either by approved festival permits, as a by-right activity, or by Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors approved conditional use permits.

The new proposal would create two types of festivals-a major and minor festival, which would entail different permitting factors and there would also be two different types of events detailed in the zoning ordinance-a special event and a special recreational event.

Cumberland's County Attorney, Howard Estes, walked the Commission members through the amendments proposed and how they would affect those wishing to apply for permits in the future.

Major And Minor Festivals Defined

The proposed amendments define that a major festival permit would be applied for if an event or gathering, with more than 150 people expected to be in attendance, is held more than two times a year and is sponsored by a non-profit organization or if the event is held once a year over two consecutive or less consecutive days.

According to Estes, major festivals are those that are held outside a building or held in a temporary or portable structure on open land or space, that is not associated with a building or established facility, on private or public property or public right-of-way.

“The two issues we have are public safety and sanitation,” offered Estes about the distinctions related to overnight events. “The moment you introduce an overnight component to a festival, whether it is storage of equipment for staffers or tents and the like, …you would want to have that extra for approval of those issues.”

The major festival permits would still have to go to the Board of Supervisors for approval.

“If there is something that we missed or something that is a little different it would go to the Board of Supervisors for approval by default as a major festival,” added Estes after a question was raised by Irene Wyatt about events that wouldn't completely fit into these provided guidelines.

Major festivals can include concerts, music festivals, stage shows, fairs, carnivals, exhibits, displays, sports events, automobile or animal races, competitions, and off-road vehicle events.

“There is a new process for minor festivals,” Estes noted to the Commission.

A minor festival, Estes said, is defined as an event or gathering if more than 150 people are expected to be in attendance at any one point in time for one day.

Minor festivals would also be limited to two times per year or less if sponsored by a non-profit organization and to one time per year otherwise.

“These would be permits like for the parade,” he added. “…It can be approved at the staff level rather than having to go to the Board of Supervisors. If somebody is having a special event at a non-profit organization or the school they would be able to process it at the staff level rather than have to wait for it at the Board level. Those are the two pieces of the festival ordinance.”

Town Of Farmville

Schardein explained to the Commission that the Town of Farmville had contacted his office and questioned what the proposed changes would mean to the Fourth of July activities that are annually held at the Farmville Regional Airport in Cumberland.

“It would not be a CUP (conditional use permit) or anything,” said Schardein. “It would just be addressed here. I just wanted to address that here while we were just looking at these two ordinances. That was a question that they had brought up.”

Estes also noted that the Fourth of July activities at the airport would be approved at the staff level due to the events being held on a single day.

“It meets all those triggers,” he noted.

Special Events And Special Recreation Events

According to Estes, special events would be a by-right allowance in Cumberland but special recreational events would require the approval of a conditional use permit.

A special event would mean if an event or gathering is projected to have more than 75 but no more than 150 people expected at any point in time and is going to last one day.

Special events, as proposed, would also be limited to four times a year or less. Special events could include weddings, parties, receptions, or catered events. An event that would otherwise qualify as a special event but would have fewer than 75 people in attendance can be held without limitation, according to the proposed language.

“If you get over 150 people, we want that to be in a CUP,” noted Estes about the difference between a special event and a special recreational event.

Concerning weddings and receptions, Estes explained, “Say if you were looking to take your farm and use it to host weddings and receptions, you could still have four of those a year but if you were a non-profit it's unlimited. So, you can have up to 150 people on your site for special events…”

Estes noted that, when drafting the language, it was important not to “capture church events and other non-profit activities.”

“You can have a meeting of the Rotary Club and it could have more than 75 people at it,” he said. “That was the thought there-that for the vast majority of non-profits this is not going to apply to their activities. Hunt clubs is another one.”

Special recreational events are defined, according to Estes, as events that are held more than four times a year and are not sponsored by a non-profit organization or are events or gatherings, which more than 150 people are, expected to be in attendance.

Or, he said, the event is held more than two times a year and each event or similar event is held over two or more consecutive days.

These events would also require a conditional use permit, he added.

“If you are doing more than one of those a year (major festivals) then you need a conditional use permit. At that point, the way this is drafted, that's the trigger that you need to come into the zoning office more often because you've got a more intensive use…”

Special recreational events could include concerts, music festivals, stage festivals, fairs, carnivals, sports events, automobile or animal races, competitions, or off-road vehicle events.

“That's the distinction between these four pieces and obviously they all work together,” said Estes. “As you can recall from what we had in December, this is a lot cleaner, a lot simpler, and a lot more understandable.”


Although there was no one signed up to address the Commission about the proposed changes to the festival and event permitting process in Cumberland during the public hearing, members of the Planning Commission did address the suggested draft amendments.

“You all did a good job getting this together,” advised Ms. Wyatt while referring to Estes and the Planning and Zoning staff.

Later, Randy Bryant referenced the first proposal the Commission reviewed and said, “I think it's cleaned up quite a bit from what we saw in the beginning.”

Carol Miller noted, “It should solve some of the problems.”