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Music festival, county barely on same page
Event at old Lanier racetrack to go forward with restrictions
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An electronic music festival almost screeched to a halt before the Hall County Board of Commissioners on Wednesday, but squeaked by with a 3-2 vote and some new restrictions.

With more than 1,000 tickets already sold for the Moonshine Music and Arts Festival, organizers of the event were taken to task by frustrated commissioners during their voting meeting.

The festival created by Bryan French and promoted this year by Brandon Couturier, who’s representing the event in Hall County, is a three-day music and arts festival expected to draw between 3,000 and 5,000 people. It’s set to begin June 30 at the Lanier RacePlex across from Road Atlanta in Braselton.

The festival features dozens of musicians and art vendors along with alcohol sales and a camping ground. It’s being relocated from near Ringgold in Catoosa County, and the event is already being advertised as taking place in Hall County — all without having the go-ahead from the county.

“You’ve already got a website. You’ve already advertised it. You’re already selling tickets, and you’re not even permitted,” said Commission Chairman Richard Higgins, later adding that the group “didn’t do your due diligence about it. You didn’t find out all of the information before you started doing this.”

Couturier, standing with Norm Morgan, one of the investors who bought the RacePlex three years ago, said he and Morgan thought the appropriate permits were in place when planning for the festival started.

“For us, we contract as a partnership with venues, and normally they’re the ones who secure the permits to be able to operate,” Couturier said.

He said it was at first thought that all the festival needed was a code exemption to allow music to continue past 7 p.m. on Sunday, the last day of the festival.

Instead, the group needed amendments to the track’s special events license for every day of the festival — including waiving the restriction that only gospel and country music concerts take place at the track — and a time exemption for Sunday.

Couturier sought permission to run until almost midnight every day of the festival, but only got permission to operate until 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and until 9 p.m. on Sunday.

Festival organizers will also need a detailed security plan covering the event itself and the camping area included on the festival grounds that’s been approved from the Hall County Sheriff’s Office.

Those restrictions were offered as a compromise by Commissioner Jeff Stowe, who noted that the track would be within its rights to hold loud races until midnight on Saturday.

“I don’t see there’s that big a difference,” Stowe said in favor of the festival. Stowe and Commissioners Billy Powell and Scott Gibbs gave the event votes enough to clear the commission on Wednesday.

The commission and Couturier also went back and forth on whether the festival had made contact with the sheriff’s office. It turns out that they had spoken with a deputy who didn’t have the authority to approve a security plan or set a direction for the office.

But those restrictions and requirements still weren’t enough to secure the votes of Higgins and Commissioner Kathy Cooper, who represents the district set to host the festival.

Cooper spoke with residents near the festival who were concerned about noise and traffic over the weekend. She also talked about a 1970s music festival on the Road Atlanta property that “was like the Woodstock of Hall County. It turned out to be horrific.”

Ultimately, she said the commission wasn’t given enough notice.

“It’s my job to ask you the questions and try to find out what we can do to prevent something like that, and I don’t think we’ve had enough to time to be able to do that,” she said.

The motion to approve the amendments to the RacePlex’s special events license and approve an exemption to county noise restrictions passed 3-2, with Higgins and Cooper dissenting.

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