New Special Event Permits in Elbert County

 Requests to host special events in Elbert County are on the rise, leading the county to take a hard look at current event permitting procedures. In our research, we discovered we lack a formal permitting process. The current permit available for special events included unclear and vague language, which contributed to the informality of procedures. To address this issue, we’ve made recent amendments to the current zoning regulations, which is a fancy way of saying there are more rules if you want to host an event larger than a family barbeque. This update won’t deter or prevent special events, but instead allow the county to have a better understanding of happenings within the county. “We’re not trying to stop anything,” County Manager Sam Albrecht said. “We just need to know what’s going on.”

How does this change affect me?

Those who host gatherings of more than 100 people will need to apply for a permit, unless it’s a funeral procession, a farmer’s market contained on private property or a group branding, shearing or farm equipment auction. There are also exceptions for emergency events, since it is counterproductive to ask for a permit if hundreds of people are gathering for safety against a storm, flood or wildfire.

The permit application should contain as many details about the event as possible, including: how many port-a-potties will be provided, where people will park and where food will be cooked and served. “These are details that will ensure the gathering will be safe in many ways that organizers may not think about,” said Jerri Spear, Director of the Elbert County Department of Public Health, Environment and Human Services. “We had one event where they were serving cotton candy right next to the cow barns,” Spear said.

To ensure all aspects of safety have been considered, many departments, including public health, the sheriff’s office and fire districts will need to sign off on each permit. This begins the process before county staff reviews it.

Requirements vary depending on the number of expected attendees. The permit deadline for a minor event (up to 500 people) is 45 days before the event, whereas a major event (more than 500+ people) requires a permit deadline of at least 60 days.

“To ensure we were following best practices, county staff asked other neighboring counties, including rural ones, about the permits they require for a gathering,” said Christina Stanton, Director of Community Development Services. The new system is modeled after what they learned.

But it is necessary now, and frankly, Albrecht said, it should have happened earlier. One of the events that took the county by surprise was a large rodeo where shots were fired. No one was seriously injured, but if that happens in the future, officers need to know what they’re responding to.

If there’s any kind of emergency, such as a wildfire, similar to the ones that have happened in the last couple of summers, or a blizzard, such as the one the county experienced in March, now the county will have the information it needs to help.

“The basis of this all stems from public safety,” Albrecht said. “How do we respond if we don’t know what’s going on?”

Anyone needing a special event permit should go to  Group Event Permit Application