November 6, 2019 730 PM
PRESIDIO COUNTY – County commissioners once again voted to postpone approval of the proposed mass gathering permit application, this time to hear more from City of Presidio residents and public officials who want to offer input. The county held yet another workshop on Friday, November 1 to discuss the application, and then had a special meeting afterward, where they officially voted to table the item.
Discussions at all of the applications hearings thus far have been almost entirely Marfa-centric, often obliquely or explicitly referencing the proposed C3 Presents festival that would take place on a ranch north of Marfa in unincorporated Presidio County.
Judge Cinderela Guevara opened the workshop by reading through and discussing the application line by line. It includes overseeing public order, emergency planning, operational planning and safety management. It also grants the emergency management coordinator, the sheriff and the county health authority the right to request any additional information they deem necessary.
The permit requires landowners to grant permission to all law enforcement to enter the premises during the event, and requires reports about stages, lighting, parking, traffic, sound, sanitation, food, alcohol, medical care and many other aspects of a gathering or event.
The application also adds a new addendum that includes “recommendations” that aren’t required, but encouraged, such as promoters securing a liability insurance policy, consideration of the burn ban, addressing road capacity, handling local wildlife, and more.
At one point, commissioners held a lengthy discussion about asking landowners hosting the event to disclose if they are receiving an agricultural tax exemption.
Guevara didn’t think ranchers would lose their agricultural tax exemption, but County Attorney Rod Ponton said it was an issue for the appraisal district. “The more things we ask, the more responsibility we’re going to have,” Guevara said.
Commissioner Brenda Bentley responded, “We’re responsible for tax code, and to me it doesn’t seem fair to approve a tax exemption to somebody and then let them make a profit, when everybody here, including myself, has to pay taxes.”
County citizen Bob Schwab rebutted Guevara’s point, saying it was merely collecting information so the county is aware of who is collecting exemptions but then holding for-profit events.
“If that property owner is getting hundreds of thousands of dollars for an agricultural exemption and they’re using it for a non-agricultural purpose, it seems like it would be in the interest of the taxpayers of this county that that information is on the application so that a citizen can protest at the appraisal district,” Schwab said.
He agreed with Ponton that it was the appraisal district’s authority, but said, “At least it’s public information so that citizens can say, ‘You know what, we’re being cheated,’ and can go to the appraisal district and appeal that particular exemption because it’s been violated.”
Guevara said they would put something on the application, but wanted to get more information from the chief appraiser first.
Justice of the Peace David Beebe shared his understanding that the agricultural exemption still applies, as long as the “principal” use of the land is agricultural, even if they have for-profit events or usages.
Three hours into the workshop on Friday, Attorney Ponton shared the concerns raised by City of Presidio officials. Ponton pointed out that the county had not held any permit meeting in Presidio, even though Presidio is the largest city in the county.
Any permitting procedures for mass gatherings and music festivals would apply to south county and affect locals, officials and visiting companies who wanted to hold a mass gathering or music event.
Brenda Bentley proposed a special meeting in Presidio so that citizens’ voices could be heard. “It feels like we left them out,” she said. The workshop adjourned and commissioners reconvened for the scheduled special meeting. Commissioners unanimously voted to postpone the vote.
In order to hear concerns from south county and City of Presidio, the county commissioners will hold a special meeting on mass gathering and music festival permitting procedures tomorrow, November 8 at 5:30 p.m. in Presidio at the Presidio County Annex located at 300 East O’Reilly Street.
The judge requests citizens email their concerns for the Proposed Mass Gathering Permit Application to email@example.com, or you may call 432-729-4452, or visit the Presidio County Judge’s Office in the county courthouse.
Additional reporting by Sarah M. Vasquez.