Lexington is exploring a single special-events permit to streamline the process and to try to avoid traffic snarls such as the one caused by the Luke Bryan concert in October 2015.
The country star’s concert at Talon Winery off Tates Creek Road in rural Fayette County on a Tuesday night in October led to traffic backups for miles on Tates Creek and surrounding roads. The winery was allowed to have the concert because of a previous planning ruling that gave wineries the right to hold such events without alerting planning or public safety officials.
Under a proposal presented at Tuesday’s Urban County Council’s Planning and Public Safety Committee, any group holding an event where more than 50 people are expected to attend and will require two or more city services would be required to get a permit. A permit would also be required if an event uses city streets or sidewalks. Events where fireworks and food will be sold will also require a permit.
The Planning and Public Safety Committee took no action on the proposal Tuesday. But the proposal may come back before the committee in the next several months.
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The city has more than 300 special events each year, said Jonathan Hollinger, a senior administrator with the city’s planning department. Those events occur downtown — such as the annual July 4th celebration — at the city’s parks — such as last weekend’s Crave food festival — or at venues including Keeneland and the Kentucky Horse Park. Currently, event organizers get permits from different departments depending on where the event is held and what type of services the event requires.
Downtown events are reviewed by a special events commission. Events in parks are reviewed by the parks staff.
“It varies depending on the location,” Hollinger told the committee Tuesday. That creates a lot of confusion for event planners.
All special events would have to apply under one application. That application would be reviewed by all appropriate city divisions such as police, fire or streets and roads. The city’s special events commission would have ultimate say on whether the permit is granted.
The review would look at liability issues such as having the appropriate insurance, street closures and traffic volumes and public safety issues.
There is an appeals process, Hollinger said.
Councilman Bill Farmer Jr. questioned if the process was too cumbersome for smaller, neighborhood events.
But Hollinger said it should be easier under the proposed changes.
“You don’t have to run around and get sign-offs from all the departments,” Hollinger said. “This gives you a simple, streamlined process.”
Councilman Russ Hensley, whose district includes Talon Winery, said the Bryan concert was 20,000 people. That’s why it caused so many traffic problems.
“Is the threshold too low?” Hensley said of the 50 attendees. But Hollinger said the requirement to get a special event permit was for events with more than 50 attendees who need more than two city services. Hollinger said they will look at the number of attendees as they move forward with changes to the current ordinance regarding special events.
Hollinger said city officials will return in three or four months with possible changes to the ordinance, a handbook and an online application for the council to approve.