Organizers of the Bi-Mart Willamette Country Music Festival have filed for an official outdoor mass gathering permit in Jefferson and should be scheduled for a hearing by early 2018.

Marion County received the permit request, which includes a request for a conditional use permit, on Nov. 4. Brandon Reich, senior planner, said the Marion County Board of Commissioners should decide in the next week or so when to schedule the hearing for the permit, which likely will be in December or January.

Public input will be taken at the hearing and a decision could be made that day, he said, although the board also may decide it needs to continue the hearing to receive more information.

At a public meeting Nov. 2 in Jefferson, Anne Hankins, owner and president of Willamette Country Music Concerts, told the audience the festival may still remain in Brownsville next summer if details can't immediately be worked out with Marion County.

Should the county decide to approve the permit request, the organizers of the four-day country music festival will have to meet all the conditions required, including plans for traffic control, fire protection, sanitation and other situations, Reich said. With the festival scheduled for August, however, it's possible that could be accomplished by 2018.

The permit request, from Willamette Country Music Concerts LLC, asks to hold a gathering of between 40,000 and 60,000 people on Aug. 16-19, 2018, on approximately 480 acres of farmland at 13384 Jorgenson Road, Jefferson.

The main site is just west of Interstate 5 between Talbot Road and Ankeny Hill. The application also maps out two additional sites on the south side of Wintel Road just east of Buena Vista Road, totaling 130 acres, that also could be used for camping and parking.

The full permit can be seen on the Marion County Planning Division's website, http://www.co.marion.or.us/PW/Planning.

If approved, the primary site at Jorgenson Road would include a main stage and a secondary "Sunrise" stage, parking, an area for both recreational vehicle and tent camping, and room for vendors and a beer garden.

Property owners Jimmy and Kristine Gross said in the permit request they plan to make one permanent change to the site: the addition of a well and irrigation lines to provide potable water for use during the festival.

Music festival officials plan to mitigate concert noise in a number of ways:

• By placing the stage in a field with a natural tree boundary.

• By use of a focused sound system to contain most of the sound within the venue area.

• By positioning performers so the sound is directed toward the southeast and Interstate 5 and away from most neighbors.

Performances also are scheduled to end at 11 p.m. each day and sound checks will not occur before 8 a.m.

"Our goal is to leave the property, always, in condition equal to or better than it was when we arrived," the permit application states.

The application estimates the economic impact of the four-day festival, as measured by tourism groups, at more than $3.5 million annually to the local economy.

Since its beginnings in Brownsville more than a decade ago, the festival has requested volunteer help from schools and mid-valley nonprofits, providing more than $250,000 each year in return.

Last year, the Central Linn School District had 24 teams and clubs from the junior high and high school work shifts, which earned each group $1,000 for their club or team accounts, according to the Central Linn Booster Club. 

Students and other volunteers have sold ice, water and tickets to the event; picked up trash; helped set up and tear down the site; watered roads; ran the transportation department and other duties as necessary.

Central Linn students currently are selling tickets as a fundraiser for the 2018 festival, regardless of its location. A portion of each sale goes to the team or club handling the tickets. (More information is available by contacting the Booster Club at 541-990-5420.)

The Marion County permit request specifies only the festival of 2018, although Hankins told the audience at the November public meeting the event plans to stay and grow.

Festival organizers had received a five-year permit from Linn County earlier this year to continue holding the show in Brownsville. Linn County Commissioner Roger Nyquist said the festival pays for the permits annually and no penalty is assessed if it does not stay for the full five years.

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