We can tell when we have a story that sparks particular interest as the comments begin flowing immediately and come in all directions.
Such was the case last week with the article on the planning commission for the third time throwing up their hands and saying we can’t approve a conditional wedding/events venue use for a Pickens property.
Some of the comments we heard are that people are ready to fight for their right to party (technically not a guaranteed right under the Constitution).
Others recalled unpleasant experiences from living too near a loud/overly-well-light public event area and the problems that spiraled out from it.
Public events are a grey area in regulation terms for Pickens County. Property owners can still hold various gatherings as there are no laws such as crowd limits, traffic restraints or noise ordinances to stand in the way. The difference comes when someone needs governmental approval for a permanent commercial operation, such as the wedding/meeting venues sought in two recent planning commission meetings.
Public sentiment is mixed.
To boil it down, no one wants to be the neighbor of an outdoor entertainment venue, but many people feel we need one somewhere in the county.
Those on the pro-side generally argue that such a venue would boost our economy as well as the social scene.
Those on the negative usually maintain that the venues are too loud, messy and generate too much traffic. Thrown in are some subtler concerns about the likelihood any successful festival/wedding/event venue would serve alcohol and how to regulate that.
We agree with all the comments. There is apparently a business need to meet the public desire for venues that could host everything from weddings to motorcycle rallies. On the other hand, people who live in a quiet, peaceful corner of this rural county shouldn’t be forced to tolerate late night party sounds, traffic and weekend disruptions so that others will profit and have a place to go.
Thus far the planning commission has dodged the issue a trio of times in the past few years. First, the owners of a large tract in the Big Ridge area sought a permanent spot for festival and events. They held a run/adventure race to benefit a local non-profit, then held a motorcycle rally.
Both events went well and the property is well suited for large events with one notable exception: To access it, normally quiet country roads are used.
The next events were both wedding venue requests for two different spots along Cove Road. The first denial looked pretty obvious as the parcel in question would be entered near the top of the steep curves on that road and it doesn’t take a DOT engineer to recognize the dangers of adding and stopping traffic in that spot.
The other proposed site was further out Cove Road and the proposal met the ire of nearby property owners who noted they could “sing along with music” from an event already held there.
Looking at the planning commission’s rejections, it’s important to note they didn’t say we don’t want events/wedding chapels or motorcycle rallies. They made it plain, the county lacks established codes to govern any potentially large, loud, raucous gatherings and, once permitted, safeguards will be hard to add after the fact.
We’ll give venue operators the benefit of the doubt and assume they really will maintain a family-friendly site, will be considerate of their neighbors, wind down the music at acceptable times, and keep a close eye on alcohol consumption.
But in reality, there will be pressure from the paying customers to “turn it up.” The planning commission is dead-on with their insistence that an honor system won’t work and it’s reckless to permit anything until there are rock-solid rules in place.
With three requests in recent months, we’d suggest the county commissioners, planning commission and appropriate law enforcement agencies begin looking at this hole in our county codes.