Music Festival Ordinance

Background 

Pittsylvania County recently underwent a thorough revision of part of its ordinance related to music festivals. Multiple upcoming events and festivals planned for the Blue Ridge Amphitheater in Blairswhich was formally known as White Oak Amphitheater, led county staff to realize that our current Music Festival Ordinance had not been updated in 30 years.  

A few minor updates have occurred, but not a thorough revision to make sure that the regulations are up-to-date and adequately protect everyone involved, including Pittsylvania County residents and neighbouring property owners, those who attend the events, Pittsylvania County government, and event promoters and staffOut of an abundance of caution, the Board of Supervisors passed a motion during their April 20 meeting to freeze the acceptance of all music festival applications until the County Code can be revised. You can review the adopted revisions here

Approved during June Meeting 

After months of work from Pittsylvania County staff and input from the public and agencies like the Virginia Department of Transportation and Virginia Department of Health, the Board of Supervisors approved revisions to the music festival ordinance during their June meeting. This was the first wholesale revision since the ordinance was created in the 1970s. 

"We took our time in developing these ordinance revisions because we wanted to make sure that everybody is getting a good deal," said Bob Warren, Chairman of the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors. "We believe this ordinance adequately and fairly allows for music festivals to occur in a way that is safe and efficient for everyone involved." 

The action taken by the Board on Tuesday night was only to approve revisions of the ordinance. A special called meeting has been scheduled for June 22 at 4 p.m. At that meeting, the Board of Supervisors will consider permit applications for multiple music festivals that Purpose Driven Events is planning at the Blue Ridge Amphitheater in Blairs. 

With the updated ordinance, any music festival organizer will be required to submit thorough plans - that must be approved by Pittsylvania County and other regulating agencies such as the Virginia Department of Transportation - regarding everything from transportation, safety, light and sound, facilities and sewage, and a comprehensive site plan. For a permit to be granted, each of those plans would be signed off on by the regulating agencies, and the entire permit would need to be approved by the Board of Supervisors.   

During their meetings on May 18, the Board of Supervisors elected to table any revisions to the music festival ordinance until the June meeting. This was due to concerns over insurance coverage, bond requirements, time limitations for festivals, and just a general desire to make sure the revisions are properly considered and reviewed so that they would allow music festivals to proceed efficiently and safely. These concerns were adequately addressed with higher liability insurance and bond requirements. 

What Does This Revised Ordinance Regulate? 

The revisions that the Board of Supervisors approved allow for regulations regarding Fire and EMS coverage for eventstraffic control, insurance coverage, bonds to ensure compliance, security and crowd control, lighting and noise spillover, and much more. Detailed plans, including a comprehensive site plan showing every amenity and where it would be located, will have to be provided and signed off on by the appropriate regulating agency, and the entire permit must be approved by the Board of Supervisors. 

The following things are now required from any music festival organizer:  

  • An overall site plan that shows the layout of the festival. This would need to be approved by Community Development 
  • A plan for adequate sanitation facilities and garbage, trash, and sewage disposal. This would need to be approved by Public Works.  Infographic about Music Festival Ordinance
  • A plan for providing food, water, and lodging. This would need to be approved by Community Development and the local Health Department 
  • A plan for medical facilities and EMS coverage. This would need to be approved by Public Safety 
  • A plan for parking facilities and traffic control. This would need to be approved by VDOT. 
  • A plan for adequate fire protection. This would need to be approved by Public Safety 
  • An outdoor lighting plan. This would need to be approved by Community Development.  
  • An outdoor noise plan. This would need to be approved by Community Development.  
  • A security and crowd control plan. This would need to be approved by the Sherriff’s Department. 
  • A secure bond to ensure that the organizers follow all requirements of the permit 
  • Adequate general liability insurance coverage.  

You can review the full, adopted revisions here. Each of these elements have been thoughtfully enacted to ensure that music festivals and other large concerts can happen safely without disrupting the lives of our residents. The Board of Supervisors’ goal is to protect our residents and those who do business in our county.  

Public Information Meeting and Public Hearing

To keep the public updated on what the new regulations may be and how Pittsylvania County is working hard to protect every party involved, a public information meeting was held on May 12 at 7 p.m. (see video to the right). Participating remotely and in-person, citizens were able to learn more about our efforts to pre-emptively revise the Ordinance and what some of the proposed changes are. Attendees heard from and were able to ask questions to Purpose Driven Events, the company that manages the Blue Ridge Amphitheater, Pittsylvania County Community Development, Public Safety, and the Sheriff's Office, as well as other state agencies.

“We were pleased with the turnout of Wednesday’s public information meeting. We were able to bring many regulating agencies together to discuss how our new ordinance will allow music festivals to proceed safely and efficiently.”  - Pittsylvania County Administrator David Smitherman

You can view the presentation that was shared here

Some of the highlights includes: 

  • A presentation from Community Development Director Emily Ragsdale about ordinance revisions relating to sound and light, insurance and bonding requirements, and the overall sight plan. The new ordinance requires any music festival to have proof of general liability insurance for at least $2 million, and any event with more than 10,000 attendees needs at least $4 million. 
  • Comments from Deputy Director of Public Safety Michael Lee, who spoke about the role of Public Safety in approving a Fire and EMS plan as well as any pyrotechnic displays or fireworks under the proposed ordinance. 
  • Comments from Jay Craddock, Assistant Resident Engineer for the Virginia Department of Transportation, regarding required land use permits and traffic management plans that must be approved for any music festival under the new proposed ordinance. 
  • Pittsylvania County Sheriff Mike Taylor spoke about the role his office will play in planning and coordinating security at any large music festivals in Pittsylvania County. 
  • Representatives from Purpose Driven Events shared about their plans for the Blue Ridge Amphitheater in 2021 and potentially beyond. The company has run many music festivals and similar events. 

After the presentations citizens asked questions to each of the individual agencies and presenters, as well as representatives from the Virginia Department of Health, about things like traffic flow and road integrity, safety, light and sound affecting surrounding properties, and other ways that music festivals could impact our residents. 

An important note: Pittsylvania County will be reimbursed for any costs related fire, EMS, or law enforcement assistance with any music festival event to ensure that these events do not put a burden on the taxpayers or the Pittsylvania County general fund.