Kyle mass gathering permits may be revisited in August

The Kyle Safety and Emergency Services Committee is revising an ordinance that would require organizers of large gatherings to acquire a permit from the city before holding the event.

Mayor Lucy Johnson said she had some concerns about the original version of the proposed ordinance. The City Council has tabled it, but the proposal is expected to come up at the group's meeting in August.

"My biggest concern was that it created a set of rather lengthy rules and regulations that for professional large-scale operations wouldn't be burdensome to follow through on, but for small businesses, small vendors or nonprofits wanting to throw a large party, it would be overly burdensome for them to comply with a lot of the rules," Johnson said.

She cited church groups that organize community events and families who would like to hold large weddings on their property as examples of those who might be unduly burdened by the rule.

The original draft of the ordinance, submitted Jan. 24, would require inspections from the fire marshal, local emergency services and, at events that would serve food, the health inspector to ensure that the minimum safety and security standards are met.

The proposal would also allow the city to establish and collect a fee for all inspections, though that fee has yet to be determined.

Kyle Fire Department Chief Glenn Whitaker, who also sits on the SESC, said the current draft of the proposal contains a provision that would allow venues such as Thunderhill Raceway and Lehman High School, which regularly host events, to obtain annual permits.

Other exemptions include church events held on church property, governmental events held on property owned by a government entity and any exceptions the council may allow.

Kyle Police Chief Jeff Barnett, who acts as liaison between the City Council and the committee, said the SESC is also exploring how to balance the rights of private property owners who might call his department with noise complaints with the rights of event attendees.

"It's a difficult process to find that harmony," Barnett said. "I think we're almost there."

Barnett said the catalyst for the discussion was an event at Thunderhill Raceway in late 2011.

The event's promoters served alcohol at the event. Organizers were expecting about 3,000 people to attend, many of whom were younger than 21.

Barnett said the city was not even aware of the event until he received a phone call from the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission.

He said the promoter, an event-planning company from California, did not establish adequate communication with the city about what services and safety plans would be in place during the event.

The city's proposed mass gathering ordinance would require advance notice, planning for safety and sanitation, and will include a cancellation policy.

"The biggest thing is that if we don't know there [is] going to be a large group of people gathered where emergencies could, in fact, happen, then we're unprepared to respond to those," Barnett said. "The city wants to take measures to be prepared in advance to help take care of our visitors to Kyle."



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