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The Board of Supervisors held a busy day of meetings on Tuesday. Here are some of the highlights.
After Pittsylvania County underwent a thorough revision of its music festival ordinance in June and a thorough review of the permit application by many regulating agencies and county departments, the Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a permit application for the Blue Ridge Rock Festival - a large, four-day rock festival in Blairs that is expected to bring approximately 35,000 people in September.
"We have gone above and beyond our due diligence with both the revisions of our music festival ordinance and in our consideration of the application for the Blue Ridge Rock Festival," said Bob Warren, Chairman of the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors. "I am confident that all of the planning will allow this event, as well as the two that were previously permitted, to proceed safely and efficiently."
The permit application was approved with several contingencies. For instance, the particulars of the traffic and parking control plans are still being finalized with input from the Virginia State Police and Virginia Department of Transportation, and the permit was approved contingent on that plan being approved by the regulating agencies.
"These items do not merit withholding approval or denying the permit application, but they are things that will be worked out with all the regulating agencies as we get closer to the event," said Emily Ragsdale, Community Development Director.
You can read the entire permit application for the Blue Ridge Rock Festival here. Approximately 160 bands are scheduled to play across 6 stages over the four-day event, which is scheduled for September 9-12. According to the permit applications from Purpose Driven Events, approximately 20,000 of the attendees will be camping on-site, with another 15,000 expected to commute into the venue every day. Those who are camping are required to check in on Wednesday September 8 and will check out on Sunday - reducing the expected traffic congestion during the days of the event.
The Blue Ridge Rock Festival is the third and largest music festival at the Blue Ridge Ampitheater in Blairs that has received a permit from the Board of Supervisors. During a special called meeting on June 22, the Board approved permits for Worship at the Mountain - a three-day Christian Music festival expected to draw in more than 8,000 - and the Blue Ridge Country Festival, which is also expected to have more than 10,000 attendees. Worship at the Mountain is scheduled for September 3-5 and the Blue Ridge Country Festival is scheduled for October 1-3.
Pittsylvania County leaders spent months thoroughly reviewing and updating its music festival ordinance, which was created in the 1970s and hadn't been thoroughly revised since then. The Board of Supervisors held a public hearing at their June 15 meeting before approving the comprehensive revision. Under the new code, event promoters are required to submit extensive plans regarding everything from public safety to trash and traffic to EMS for any music festival. These plans have to be approved by the relevant regulating agencies and then the entire permit application has to be approved by the Board of Supervisors. The purpose of these revisions and rigorous permitting process was to ensure that large-scale events could proceed safely and efficiently for all involved and the community as a whole.
In an effort to more equitably spread the tax burden across County residents and collect taxes from those just travelling through or visiting, the Board of Supervisors approved two new taxation options on Tuesday night.
The Board increased the existing meals tax from 4% to 6%, and then the Board enacted a new, 4% transient occupancy tax, which applies to anyone staying in a hotel, Airbnb style lodging, or camping. According to State Code, a locality can adopt a transient occupancy tax, but any proceeds after 2% must be contributed to tourism efforts in the area. The Board of Supervisors plans to hold a public hearing during a future meeting in regards to how the 2% of the transient occupancy tax proceeds will be used to improve tourism efforts in Pittsylvania County.
"With the 2022 Reassessment coming up, we have made it our goal to more fairly distribute the tax burden," said Bob Warren, Chairman of the Board of Supervisors. "In the past we have passed a disproportionate portion of the cost of running government onto our landowners, and with these new taxes we are trying to capture revenue from other sources - including those traveling into or through our county - so that we can reduce the cost to our taxpayers."
The increase to the meals tax is expected to generate an additional $400,000 in revenue annually, while it is unknown at this time how much annual revenue will be collected from the new transient occupancy tax since there is no previous county history with the tax. The Board of Supervisors is looking at these options to create additional revenue that would allow a reduction in the Pittsylvania County real estate tax rate with the upcoming reassessment.
On a somewhat related note, the Board of Supervisors approved the creation of a new internal auditor position. This person would work across county government, including with offices like the Commissioner of the Revenue, the Finance Department, the Sheriff's Office, and Economic Development, among others, to audit everything from petty cash to medical billing to incentives and tax breaks to the execution of local taxes - including the newly enacted taxes.
During an afternoon finance committee meeting, the Board of Supervisors discussed additional taxation options - such as a cigarette tax and a fire tax - all with the intention of reducing the burden on property owners. These are options that the Board will continue to consider in the coming months.
During its afternoon Finance Committee the Board of Supervisors considered different options for recruiting talented workers in the midst of a challenging hiring environment. Ultimately, the Board approved $1,000 sign-on and referral bonuses that will remain in effect for the remainder of the fiscal year.
"We are having a very difficult time finding qualified and talented employees that are willing to join our team," said Pittsylvania County Human Resources Manager Holly Stanfield. "With the difficulties companies and agencies across the country are having with hiring, we know that we need to sweeten the pot and think outside the box to attract top talent."
The $1,000 sign-on bonus is for employees that join the Pittsylvania County team in fiscal year 2021, and it must be returned by any employee that does not work for Pittsylvania County for at least a year. The $1,000 referral bonus would be given in two instalments to any current employee that recommends someone who is hired and then works for Pittsylvania County for a year.
Pittsylvania County is currently recruiting for approximately 25 open positions, and is also working on a general campaign to recruit talented people. Those who are interested in working for Pittsylvania County should visit pittsylvaniacountyva.com/jointheteam to submit their resume and cover letter. You can also find open positions at pittsylvaniacountyva.gov/jobs.