Event application problems associated with a June 4th music and beer festival planned for historic Long Branch have angered a county supervisor who says that the event should not be approved. “Rock N’ River”, which organizers say will attract less than 1,000 people, would feature three bands and last until 9:00 pm if approved by the Clarke County Board of Supervisors.
“This whole application has been an abortion,” said a visibly angry Supervisor Pete Dunning (White Post) at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors work session meeting. “If this is approved aren’t we setting a precedent that if you screw up an application you can give a wink to Mike [Hobert] and John [Staelin] and still go forward?”
According to the Long Branch website, Rock N’ River will be a “topical [sic] melt out from the ice and snow we have right now with the heat from the Trop-Rock bands Parrot Beach (A Jimmy Buffet tribute band), Pan Masters (steel drum orchestra), the popular Souled Out and the local musicians The Golden Butter Band!” The website also says that a portion of the proceeds will benefit “The Downstream Project” (http://www.thedownstreamproject.org/) an organization founded by Clarke County Planning Commission chairman George Ohrstrom.
Dunning’s Tuesday anger was a continuance of a similar display of displeasure that occurred at the Supervisors April 19th regular meeting when Long Branch Executive Director, David Boyce addressed the Board of Supervisors to defend the Rock N’ River application after the application was questioned by County Administrator, David Ash.
Ash questioned whether Long Branch’s February 25th initial application, which classified the event as “small” – Long Branch estimated a maximum expected attendance of 475 people in its application – was accurate. Ash also said that the county’s standard site access form which authorizes private property oversight and access to the event by county personnel had not been submitted. Ash said that instead, Long Branch had replaced the standard access application with the statement, “The Administrator, designee, and/or law enforcement officers will not enter ‘the property’ LONG BRANCH unless a ‘representative’ of ‘the property’ LONG BRANCH is present.”
Director Boyce’s attempt to defend the application during the April 19th meeting did little to sway the Supervisors to approve the event. After stern questioning of Mr. Boyce by Supervisor Dunning, the Board of Supervisors denied the Rock N’ River application, but told Boyce that the denial should not be taken as a sign of lack of support for Long Branch, rather as an invitation to revise the Rock N’ River application for resubmission.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Dunning continued pressure to reject the application.
“They’ve asked for 500 people and three bands. There’s no way that they can do this with only that many people. Approving this is precedent setting and shows very poor leadership. Will this same treatment go for everyone who makes a future application John?” Dunning asked Supervisor John Staelin (Millwood).
“We gave a signal to them at the last meeting to re-apply and that we would look at the application a month later. All that we said was that if they got something in on time we’d reconsider it,” Staelin said. “I think that people need to be held accountable. Long Branch is only under the impression that we will re-look at it. We didn’t say that we would approve it.”
Although Long Branch’s initial application was turned down in April, several Supervisors expressed continued support for the organization and its goals prompting Chairman Hobert to extend an offer to Boyce for the Board of Supervisors to quickly review a new application by Long Branch and approve or deny it at the next regular meeting scheduled for May 24, 2011.
But because the Rock N’ River event date, June 4, has already been publicly advertised by Long Branch, approval of the application by the Supervisors would require the board to forgo its standard process for dealing with similar requests in order to accommodate Long Branch’s schedule. Normally, a medium-sized event application, less than 1,000 attendees, is reviewed by the Board of Supervisors during a regular meeting at which time the Board may approve, disapprove, or at the Board’s discretion, sets the matter for public hearing at the next regular Board of Supervisors meeting.
Coincidentally, two envelopes containing Long Branch’s revised application were delivered to administrator Ash during the Tuesday morning Supervisor’s meeting. According to county staff, the Tuesday submission comes after a second application received on May 2, 2011 was determined to be incomplete and returned to Long Branch.
Over objections from Supervisor Dunning, the envelopes delivered to Ash during the meeting were not immediately opened.
“Let’s open it and have a look at what they’ve sent,” Dunning said before being overruled by Supervisor Chairman, Michael Hobert (Berryville) who noted that review Long Branch’s proposal was not on the work session agenda.
While Dunning’s comments implied that Long Branch may be the recipient of favorable treatment, other board members saw the application accommodation differently.
“I think that we are demonstrating that we are willing to bend over backwards for an organization that has done a lot for Clarke County,” said Hobert. “Any organization that we have had a relationship with over a long period of time deserves for us to be reasonable with them.”
“This event will bring a lot of tourists to the area,” said Supervisor Barbara Byrd (Russell). “Hopefully some of them will give their business to the county. We are trying to encourage economic activity here.”
Reached on Wednesday, Long Branch director David Boyce said that he believes that his latest application will address the concerns of the Supervisors.
“The ability of the required, supporting agencies, namely; VA State Police, VA DOT, VA ABC, Clarke County Sheriff’s Department, Clarke County Health Department, Clarke Buildings Department and Boyce EMS, to accommodate the increase was a concern amongst some of the Supervisors. The amended application, however, includes the support from all the above mentioned agencies,” Boyce said. “Thus, the Board of Supervisors will render the final decision at the next BOS meeting.”