SALEM — June reports by Marion County officials recommend that requests be denied for conditional use and mass gathering permits to move the Bi-Mart Willamette Country Music Festival to Jefferson.

The Marion County Board of Commissioners will hold a hearing June 20 on the festival's request for both permits, along with a request for a noise variance. 

People may testify in person at the hearing beginning at 9 a.m. in the Senator Hearing Room of the Courthouse Square Building, 555 Court St. NE, Salem.

Written comments can be sent by email to breich@co.marion.or.us or by mail to Marion County Planning Division, 5155 Silverton Road NE, Salem, OR 97305.

The application, documents and applicable criteria are available to review at the Planning Division office or online at https://bit.ly/2sK5yUu.

A June 8 mass gathering report from the Marion County Planning Director found the applicant had satisfied criteria for a noise variance.

But the director took issue with the festival's plans to install a well on the property to make water available for the event. "Because no permanent structures are permitted in conjunction with a mass gathering, the event does not meet the definition of a mass gathering and the permit should be denied," the report reads.

A June 7 analysis by the Marion County hearings officer states the conditional use permit request as described by the applicant "is not in harmony with the purpose and intent of the Exclusive Farm Use zone." 

The officer found some of the requirements for the application have been met, but did not feel that was the case with all of them and recommended the denial.

"Such recommendation is based on the hearings officer's position that a conditional use permit for temporary use of property zoned EFU for a large-scale music festival is not authorized by state statue or by the Marion County Code," the analysis reads.

"Exclusive farm use zoning, as provided by law, substantially limits alternatives to the use of land, which is acknowledged by the legislature in ORS 215.243. Such limitation precludes the temporary and conditional use of EFU-zoned property for the purpose proposed by the application."

The four-day country music festival has taken place in Brownsville for the past 12 years and is scheduled to be held there again this Aug. 16-19.

Festival organizers want to expand, however. They asked Marion County for approval of an outdoor large mass gathering permit, noise variance and conditional use permit for 30,000 people to attend the festival Aug. 15-18, 2019, on 692 acres in an Exclusive Farm Use zone at 13054 Jorgenson Road S., just west of Interstate 5 and the city of Jefferson.

If the Board of Commissioners allows the permit requests, county officials asked in their reports that the festival be required to meet a variety of recommendations made by the Marion County Health Department, Marion County Public Works, Marion County Building Inspection and the Oregon Department of Transportation in connection with the application.

Among other items, these include a more detailed traffic control plan, building permits for the temporary structures, access to adequate water reserves, noise restrictions after 11 p.m. and no development in floodplains.


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