County leaders give conditional approval for farm concert, voice disapproval of ‘presumptuous’ early ticket sales
A displeased Douglas County Commission gave conditional approval Wednesday to a special event permit allowing a country music star to perform this fall on a farm south of Lawrence.
Although they approved the permit with the provision that promoters agree to all the county’s conditions, commissioners voiced their displeasure that organizers of the Luke Bryan Farm Tour were selling tickets for the concert before obtaining a permit for the Sept. 29 event.
“I think to go ahead with selling tickets before you obtain a permit is presumptuous and wrong,” Commissioner Nancy Thellman said. “I’m disappointed with the process. I think this applicant is fortunate the neighbors are approving or at least not vocal in their opposition and the local fire department is accommodating despite what looks to me to be broken promises.”
Thellman’s comment came after Douglas County Zoning and Codes Department director Sean Reid told commissioners that promoters had promised during early planning discussions not to sell tickets before obtaining a permit for the concert, which could draw as many as 20,000 fans to a farm at 1038 North 600 Road. The concert site is about 1.5 miles west of U.S. Highway 59 and 6 miles south of Lawrence.
Thellman first suggested the commission consider delaying action on the permit until the county’s requirements were met, but she later agreed to Chairman Mike Gaughan’s proposal to approve the permit on a conditional basis. Among the county’s conditions are requirements that the promoters install 160 portable restrooms at the site, provide an adequate number of ADA-compliant parking spaces and restrooms, allow on-site code inspections before and after the event, apply dust control chemicals to North 600 and North 650 roads at their expense and have medical units present at the concert.
Commissioners also stipulated that an insurance bond that indemnifies the county from any liability from the event would have to be extended to include Willow Springs Township and its fire department, Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical and other public entities helping with the event.
Promoters have agreed to limit the crowd to 20,000 people and provide enough off-road parking to prevent parking on road rights of way. Event organizers have requested 32 sheriff’s deputies to supplement the 100 private security guards at the event.
Douglas County Administrator Craig Weinaug said the promoters would pay for the deputies’ time plus benefits and the county would charge $47 an hour for all codes inspections.
“The county will not be subsidizing in any way what is a private, for-profit event,” he said.
Also of concern for commissioners was Reid’s disclosure that promoters were applying for a liquor license with the state of Kansas. Thellman said although it appeared to be a state decision, there should be a provision to end alcohol sales sometime before the event ended at 11 p.m., she said.
“I would feel somewhat reassured if they weren’t selling alcohol right up to closing time and then sending people out on the highway,” she said.
Commissioners and Reid agreed the concert highlighted the need to revisit the county’s special event permit, which was designed for much smaller functions.
“I don’t think we ever thought that process would be used for an event that brings in thousands of people,” she said. “That seems a little out of our league.”
Pumpkin patch permit approved
Commissioners also approved a agritourism permit for a second seasonal pumpkin patch in the Kansas River Valley. However, they required applicant Richard Strong to resubmit the permit before allowing the site at 1919 North 1500 Road to be used as a year-round small event venue and produce stand.
The approved permit will allow Strong to operate Li’l Charlie’s Pumpkin Patch from 9 a.m. to dark from mid-September to Halloween. Strong said the patch, which would be immediately west of the established Schaake Pumpkin Patch, would have such activities as pumpkin picking, farm tours and exhibits, a corn maze, a farm petting zoo, wagon rides, kids’ games and pumpkin launching.
Strong said contrary to a planning memo presented to commissioners, the patch would be open seven days week and not just Friday, Saturday and Sunday. He also said he would offer the site year-round as an event venue for birthday parties, family reunions and other gatherings. Additionally, his plan was to sell produce throughout the year at the site, he said.
Commissioners told Strong to resubmit a plan for uses other than the pumpkin patch, because they were not part of the permit application they received.
The approved pumpkin patch permit would be brought back to commissioners for an annual review. Reid said.
2018 county budget approved with no comment
Commissioners approved the county’s 2018 budget with no comment from the public. The $95.5 million budget calls for a 46.008 mill levy to raise $58.9 million from property taxes. That is an increase of 1.916 mills from the 2017 budget. At that rate, the county’s share of taxes on a $150,000 single-family home would be $828.