Vienna proposes more consistent regulations, fees for special events

The Town of Vienna is working on a policy to consistently regulate special events, like the annual Oktoberfest (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

The Town of Vienna hosts dozens of events every year, from annual festivities like ViVa Vienna to unique occasions like last year’s Virginia State Little League Tournament.

The permitting process for those events, however, is a little chaotic, with different departments requiring separate applications and expectations for parking, scheduling, and other logistics determined on a case-by-case basis.

Vienna hopes to clear up the resulting confusion for both staff and event organizers with a newly proposed policy that would establish rules for all special events hosted on public property, including streets and town parks, and outdoor private property.

“While the Town reviews special events currently, formalizing the regulation of such events will provide for coordinated and consistent policies to ensure the health and safety of patrons…and to protect the rights and interest of the Special Event permit holder,” Vienna Parks and Recreation Director Leslie Herman told FFXnow by email.

According to town staff, Vienna is seeing an increase in demand for events from businesses and nonprofit partners.

Challenges created by the lack of a unified application and review process include:

  • Lack of requirements for special event application for all scenarios, including information that may be required for the Police Department, Parks and Recreation, and Public Works to anticipate the number of employees that may be necessary to assist with the event
  • Ambiguities on what qualifies as a special event
  • No cap on how many special events a business or non-profit can hold per year
  • Need to develop a standard submission deadline on when an event organizer has to submit the application (ex. application must be submitted so many days before the actual event)
  • No requirement to show a parking plan for event organizers and event participants

Using a policy from the Town of Purcellville in particular as a guide, the draft ordinance lays out criteria for approving or denying an event permit, the application timeline, and information that organizers need to provide, such as anticipated attendance numbers and safety, parking, and security plans.

The ordinance also proposes an application fee of $50 or $100, depending on whether the organizer is based in town limits. Those funds would cover the administrative costs of processing each application, according to the draft.

Other potential fees include a rental fee for nonprofits to use the Town Green and up to $65 per hour for every police, public works, and parks and recreation employee needed to support an event.

Herman says the policy will provide “a mechanism” for the town to consistently recoup costs related to personnel, equipment and supplies, sanitation, property maintenance, and other event-related expenses.

“Town-sponsored Special Events enrich the Town’s vibrant, caring, and inclusive community identity and spirit,” Herman wrote. “The Town recognizes that Special Events hosted by non-profit organizations and private businesses also provide economic and social benefits to the community.”

The draft policy will be discussed by the Vienna Town Council in a conference session tomorrow (Thursday).