Action on making a resolution to approve or deny a special use permit for the Alienstock 2020 event in Rachel Sept. 10-12 was forwarded to the April 20 commission meeting.
It will be part of an ordinance to amend Title 4, Special Use Permits, in the Lincoln County Code.
This results from the high expenses to the county of the event last September entitled “Storm Area 51.” The webpage last year went viral and millions of people indicated they were interested in attending.
The county was then left having to scramble for how to handle what might be an overwhelming number of people coming to the remote Nevada desert.
It’s a scenario county commissioners and officials have said plainly since that time they are “not going to be the ones to pay for it this year.”
Planning and Building director Cory Lytle said some of the changes that need to be made in the county code are to ensure that various things can be “handled through resolutions rather than having to go through the ordinance process.”
In addition, Lytle said what was needed is a “clear definitions as to what is the difference between large events and local events?” He noted large events being commercial ones, where perhaps 1,000 or more are involved and what required fee amounts are set.
A public hearing on the revision of the ordinance is expected to be at the commission meeting April 20.
The last revision to the county code Lytle thought took place in 2010.
County Sheriff Kerry Lee said he thought revising the county code regarding these particular specifics, “is the direction we should go. I don’t think we should be against any event, although that event needs to take care of itself. They have to pay for it and until they can, we (the county) should not foot the bill. Such events have to be sure they can pay for themselves.”
Commissioner Jared Brackenbury questioned how to possibly proceed with prosecution after an event organizer maybe doesn’t follow through on the agreements of the special use permit?
Lee said, “That is a difficult part. How do you control an event like Alienstock when people don’t stay within the boundaries of Rachel and go on to BLM land which then falls into the hands of the county do deal with?”
At the same time, commissioners were concerned the language of the resolution and ordinance needed to be such as to not harm the traditional county local events that have a long history and are well established.
Lytle said he will work on the definitions “to make sure that everybody has their hands around this. We certainly don’t want to hurt the little man.”
Also at meeting, Rachel resident Joerg Arnu read a prepared statement detailing a number of things that happened in Rachel at the Alienstock event last year that did not turn out so well.
He again stressed his request that commissioners not approve an event permit for Alienstock 2020. “It was not and will never be a benefit to our county.”
County Emergency Management Director Eric Holt said he has received a lot of communication “from the state Emergency Management Office as to what we’re doing, what our stance is for 2020?”
Holt, along with Sheriff Lee, have both said 2019 was an emergency event, and state and other agencies did come along side to help.
“But for this year,” Holt said, “I think it’s imperative that we make in plain we are not in support of any type of event that will require a response on behalf of the county and a drain on our resources. I think a resolution that would limit or deny any type of such event would be in our best interest.”
Lee said, “with planning for Alienstock 2020 being done so far in advance, this year will not be an emergency and we won’t get the mutual aid help we did last year.”
Brackenbury said, “People are watching us now and if we don’t make a resolution saying we don’t want this thing for this next year, we won’t be reimbursed for the $250,000 the county has applied for from the state.”
Commission chair Varlin Higbee, absent from the March 2 meeting, had stated previously, “If they want to have an event, they will have to prove up front they can pay for all of it themselves. We are not going to do it on the backs of the county taxpayers again. If they can make money at it, fine, but we’re not going to pay for it.”
Brackenbury said he is concerned that Alienstock 2020 is being promoted on social media right now.
District Attorney Dylan Frehner was asked if Alienstock could be told not to continue to advertise on social media because no permit for the event has been issued.
He said, “Not really. As long as it is not an illegal activity, we’re not able to tell her (promoter Connie West) to cease and desist. Until a special use permit is received and/or denied, they do have the right to advertise.”
No permit has been issued or denied as yet.
Joerg Arnu said he felt that if the county makes it clear in a resolution stating they are not in support of Alienstock 2020, “people will see that this is an event they don’t want to be part of.”