County Comment: Commissioners Discuss Events Ordinance

County Comment
Commissioners Discuss Events Ordinance
by Norman Bassett, Public Information Officer
Washington County, Maryland

In its regular meeting on January 20th, the Washington County Board of County Commissioners discussed a draft Ordinance regulating certain public events held in the County.
During the 2007-08 legislative session, the General Assembly approved enabling legislation for such an Ordinance. Last October, the Commissioners considered a first draft and recommended certain changes, directing staff to work on procedural issues regarding the application process.
The original request for the measure came from Sheriff Doug Mullendore, in order to set up a process for permitting events that have an impact on various County agencies. At the time, Mullendore cited large events that required County assistance, such as road closures, emergency medical services and traffic control. Often requests for such assistance have been without regard to the time necessary to plan for personnel scheduling.
A committee was established to discuss permitting for such events, and an Ordinance was drafted to specifications set by the legislature, with the additional input from the Commissioners.
The Ordinance would require permits for large special events except those sponsored by the Board of Education, private golf facilities or licensed recreational sites, and structures designed for public gatherings.
Provisions discussed included the time frame for permit approval. A 90-day approval period would be needed to process all necessary permits. Some event organizers do not realize that electrical, plumbing, or construction permits could be required. In addition, a number of outside agencies, such as the Health Department, State Highway Department or State Police might have to issue permits.
Director of the County Department of Permits and Inspections (P&I), Dan DiVito, told the Board that the Ordinance would designate his department as a "one-stop shop" for event planners. When the application for the permit was made, a County technician would advise the event planner on the types of permits that would be required, or agencies that must be contacted.
Permits would have to be returned to P&I 30 days before the event, to make sure all details were worked out.
Some Commissioners indicated that the Ordinance in the format presented was too complicated, and that further revisions were necessary. A request included limiting the process only to those events requiring assistance.
Further discussion on the Ordinance will be scheduled on a future meeting agenda, in time for planning within 90 days of the May to October event season.