Editorial: Concert a win for county

It was presumptuous of concert promoters to begin selling tickets before getting approval of a special use permit for a Luke Bryan concert next month. Still, Douglas County commissioners were right to approve the permit.

Bryan, one of the biggest country music stars in America, is set to perform Sept. 29 at Don-Ale Farms at 1038 North 600 Road. The concert site is about six miles south of Lawrence and 1.5 miles west of U.S. Highway 59.

This is the ninth year that Bryan has done the farm tour, in which the star plays a concert at farms. This year’s tour starts Sept. 28 at Benes Farm in Lincoln, Neb., and includes stops at farms in Boone, Iowa; Fort Wayne, Ind.; Edinburg, Ill., and Centralia, Mo., as well as the Douglas County concert.

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 is expected to draw 20,000 fans. That didn’t happen. Tickets were available in advance of Wednesday’s vote on the special use permit.

“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.”

Still, Thellman and the rest of the commissioners voted to approve the special use permit with the caveat that it can be revoked if organizers fail to meet the county’s conditions. Among the conditions are that 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 indemnifying the county from any liability from the event be extended to include Willow Springs Township and its fire department, Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical and other public entities helping with the event.

Organizers have requested 32 sheriff’s deputies to supplement the 100 private security guards at the concert. 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.

It’s noteworthy that neighbors in the vicinity of the concert site did not publicly oppose the event. While promoters jumped the gun on selling tickets, the lack of neighborhood opposition and the opportunity to host such a major concert event warrant the county’s consideration. Provided all the conditions are met, the concert event could be a plus for Douglas County.