Presidio County To Address Mass Gathering Permits Again This Week
By Sally Beauvais and Diana Nguyen
The Presidio County Commissioners Court will revisit potential permitting procedures for large-scale events in the county at a meeting in Marfa on Wednesday.
The commissioners first discussed the idea of creating an application process for mass gatherings and outdoor festivals on the heels of an announcement by Austin-based C3 Presents. The company had initially proposed a festival of 5,000 attendees on a stretch of ranch land outside of Marfa in 2020. Recently, the group announced that the event would be delayed, but that they will still move forward with their plans.
In April, county officials voted unanimously to delay formalizing an application process in order to take time to do more research. Commissioner Buddy Knight expressed a desire to explore the legal possibility for the county to implement more restrictions on gathering size and event duration.
Local attendees urged the commissioners to customize the permit to consider the unique needs of Presidio County. Several residents offered to create a citizens’ advisory group to assist the officials in researching and developing a permit that would match the scale of potential events like C3’s proposed festival.
At the April meeting, Commissioner Brenda Bentley suggested the county create a local committee of officials and citizens to work together on Presidio County’s permitting procedure.
The agenda for Wednesday’s meeting indicates the county could take action on the following items, brought by Presidio County Judge Cinderela Guevara:
- Appointing a County Health Authority, who will be involved in assessing whether prospective large-scale events are in compliance with the procedures to be set in place by the county
- Adopting permitting procedures for major events in unincorporated parts of the county (those that lie outside of city limits), as well as “Major Event Permit form.”
- Adopting a “Festival Permit procedure” and a “Festival Permit application.”
Sam Karas, a Marfa resident spearheading the citizens' advisory council on mass gatherings, says some residents have met to discuss the issue but have not formally met with the commissioners or made any recommendations.
Karas says the advisory council and Judge Guevara have a meeting scheduled for June -- but that would be several weeks after the upcoming commissioners’ meeting, for which the agenda was posted on Friday.
“It seems rushed and little bit vague and I wish there was more time and public engagement in this process,” Karas told Marfa Public Radio on Sunday.
Contacted by phone Sunday evening, Commissioner Buddy Knight said he had not yet seen the permit applications listed on the agenda by Judge Guevara. Knight is still waiting on more information from the Texas Association of Counties regarding the legality of the county potentially imposing restrictions on gathering size or duration.
He added that he does think it’s important that the permitting procedures are back on the commission’s agenda and up for public discussion, once again.
“Whatever happens with C3, we need something in place because other events are coming our way," Knight said.
The commissioners will meet on Wednesday morning at 9:30 am in the Presidio County Courthouse in Marfa. The meeting is open to the public.
In addition to the county's potential decision, Emergency Management Coordinator Gary Mitschke says local county and city officials will have a closed meeting with C3 Presents Thursday morning.
"It's the first initial meeting to try and get a grasp of what's being proposed and to get the concerns out there and perhaps get some answers," Mitschke said. He added that officials will present the county's large range of concerns to the company.
Mitschke expects there will be many more meetings with C3 Presents in the future.
Editor's note: This article was updated on Tuesday, May 14 to include information regarding a meeting between C3 Presents and local officials.