A public hearing is scheduled for December 8 at 11:30 a.m. to consider the proposed Large Public Assemblies Ordinance. The hearing will take place in Commission chambers in the San Juan County courthouse in Monticello.
Commissioners say that more than a dozen activities a year threaten to overwhelm local law enforcement and emergency services. Whether it is the annual Moab Jeep Safari, the 24 hours of Moab bike race, jeep crawls or spring break, a large number of activities, which originate in the Moab area, are taking place in adjacent San Juan County.
“We get all the liability and no real benefit,” said San Juan County Administrator Rick Bailey. “And it all comes at a significant cost to San Juan County.”
The San Juan County Sheriffs department requested that the county develop an ordinance to deal with the activities. They complain that they often hear about the events too late to insure public safety and then face a nightmare situation with blocked roads, out of control crowds, and little or no services. “We are overwhelmed at the event and end up with the entire bill,” said Commissioner Bruce Adams.
The proposed ordinance would require a permit for any activity with 100 or more participants. The permitting process would require event organizers to address a host of issues, including liability insurance, crowd control, potable water, enclosed toilets, traffic control, parking, emergency response, and more. The ordinance would require a $100 fee and a $1,000 deposit for smaller events, with increasing fees for larger events.
While the proposed ordinance states “It is not the intent of the county commission to, in any way, shape or form, regulate free speech,” several San Juan County residents are concerned that the proposed ordinance moves far beyond crowd control and threatens First Amendment rights.
The ordinance, as currently proposed, would apply to private or public activities, whether on public or private property.