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Commissioners Court reviews mass-gathering policy

Wednesday, September 14, 2016 by Caleb Pritchard

With nostalgia almost sweating from the walls on Tuesday, the Travis County Commissioners Court took a look back at one of its biggest policy imbroglios of 2015. Last August, the Court approved contentious revisions to the permitting process for mass gatherings. Those revisions included new guidelines to limit the impact of outdoor festivals on residents who live near venues. The vote included a stipulation to review the revisions one year later, thus the walk down memory lane on Tuesday. Fire Marshal Tony Callaway gave a lengthy backstory of the process and concluded that the changes ultimately represented “a common sense approach.” Also on hand was Code 4 Event Management’s Scott Davidson, who played a central role in last year’s revisions. Code 4 handles mass-gathering permitting for events held at Carson Creek Ranch, the epicenter of resident complaints about noise and traffic. County Judge Sarah Eckhardt praised Davidson for being “like an additional Travis County staffer” during the process. The only hint of contention during the discussion came when Commissioner Margaret Gómez noted the increasing number of major events in her precinct. “Folks in southeast Travis County deserve a break,” Gómez said before suggesting that the county “rotate these events.” Eckhardt noted that the county has no authority to dictate to promoters where they choose to have their concerts. Gómez allowed that but suggested that the county could ask for “voluntary compliance.” She suggested that the county’s metropolitan parks could play host to future festivals. With that idea on the table, the dais appeared to reach consensus that one significant problem with major events being held in the county’s unincorporated lands is the inaccessibility by means other than driving. “I considered riding my bike to Carson Creek Ranch once,” Eckhardt admitted. Davidson wryly rebuked her, “That would not be approved by Code 4.”

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