Charleston Special Events Law Triggers Concern

July 5, 2010

Investigative Reports

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The NerveAt the most recent Charleston City Council meeting, residents expressed concern during the Citizen Participation period regarding the proposed “Special Events” ordinance.

The ordinance requires the organizer of a “major” event that is expected to draw 1,000 or more people to begin an application 120 days prior to the event. A “medium” event (500 to 1,000 people) required 90 days and a “small” event (less than 500 people) 45 days notice.

In contrast, a “commercial film or photography” event required only three days notice. There are fees attached. The application fees are nominal at $75 for a “major” event and declining thereafter.

But there are other fees. They were cut off on the handout document and on the city online document.

It is unclear if the ordinance is an attempt to thwart such meetings as the recent Tea Parties. They were not planned 120 days in advance. It is also unclear as to what will happen if something stimulates a need for a large gathering immediately?

Council member Michael Seekings asked Chief Gregory Mullen the purpose of the new ordinance and was told that a lot of preparation and planning was needed for “major” events.

This includes extra police supervision, street closures and alerts to the community. He also said that the ordinance did not apply to events held on private property. The ordinance also called for the creation of a committee to act as an administrative board and to have authority to approve and issue special events and temporary event permits.

Marc Knapp is a contractor specializing in heavy underground utilities and the owner of Charleston Site Utilities.