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Despite winning permit, festival organizers not celebrating

Wednesday, September 9, 2015 by Caleb Pritchard

Travis County Commissioners on Tuesday approved the first mass-gathering permit application to come before them since they added controversial revisions to the permitting process earlier this summer.

However, the 3-1 vote with one abstention wasn’t exactly the result the organizers of the 2016 Euphoria Music & Camping Festival – to be held at Carson Creek Ranch – were hoping for.

Scott Davidson of Code 4 Event Management, which handles Euphoria’s permitting, told the Austin Monitor after the vote that a denial would have made it easier to bring a lawsuit against the county to challenge the revisions. However, he said that option is still on the table.

As it stands, the commissioners granted the permit but denied the variance for extended hours that Davidson had requested. That means that, barring the results of potential litigation, Euphoria organizers will have to pull the plug on amplified music at 11 p.m. on weekdays and 1 a.m. on weekends.

Those curfew hours were established as baseline parameters under the revisions to the permitting process this summer. During public discussions of the matter, several opponents of the changes warned that the county had overstepped its legal authority.

On Tuesday, Commissioner Gerald Daugherty acknowledged the growing inevitability of legal action.

“I think that this court needs to understand that if a district judge agrees that we have the ability to impose what we have imposed … well, then, great,” Daugherty said. “But if, on the other hand, we are not going to be given the ability to do that per a district judge, then the promoters need to understand that.”

Daugherty’s comments came after his own motion to deny the permit application outright failed with only his and Commissioner Brigid Shea’s support. County Judge Sarah Eckhardt offered another motion to approve the application with the revised hours.

Davidson argued that state law allows only for the simple approval or denial of permits and doesn’t provide a mechanism by which commissioners courts can apply their own conditions to individual cases. He said that the permit being considered under Eckhardt’s motion wasn’t “consistent” with his application, a concern Eckhardt flatly dismissed.

“That’s what the motion is – to grant a permit that is not consistent with your application in one respect,” she explained. “But it is consistent with our policy, which your application was not consistent with. So that is the motion before us. There is clearly a legal question, but that legal question will not be settled here today.”

“Nor can I settle that legal question without you denying my permit, your honor,” Davidson quickly responded.

Noting that Commissioner Margaret Gómez – in whose precinct Euphoria will be held in March – had seconded the motion, Eckhardt then took the final vote. In addition to Daugherty’s opposition, Shea abstained.

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