Board chips away at events ordinance

County Supervisor Frank Mecham was loath to say he was “kicking the can down the road again.”

Nonetheless, the can — in this case the county’s long-pondered events ordinance — has ended up clanking and rattling once again down the pockmarked highway that runs through the county’s Department of Planning and Building.

Mecham and other supervisors spent a bit more time last week trying to tweak the ordinance — which Supervisor Adam Hill, another metaphor-minded supervisor, called a “tar pit” — before sending it back to county planners.

“We’re making progress,” said Bruce Gibson.

For years now, the county has been trying to get a handle on its events ordinance, a sprawling set of do’s and don’ts that seeks to regulate weddings, concerts, and the many other festivities that take place throughout the county, year-round, and that are part of the backbone of the local economy.

The difficulty lies in the complex nature of the many events that take place.

To make them manageable through local law, supervisors must consider a dizzying jumble of issues: crowd size, hours, parking, fire and police safety, use of alcohol, the size of the venue, toilets, water, cost, exemptions, lifespan of the permit, concerns of the neighbors, and many others.

The circumstances change with every separate event.

An events ordinance, in sum, must address who gets to hold what events, under what circumstances, and at what cost.

On Tuesday, supervisors discussed many arcane aspects of the language and practice of event regulation, and zeroed in on loopholes and nonprofits.

They and several speakers said loopholes are allowing larger venues to elude tougher standards by letting them qualify as non-profit organizations.

For instance, some criticized the Santa Margarita Ranch for creating traffic and other problems in the North County hamlet of Santa Margarita and asked supervisors to find a way to get a firmer handle on that.

The Avila Beach Golf course has faced similar criticisms.

Mecham said he frequently hears about “best management practices,” and said that in his view “best management practices are based on being a good neighbor.”