Town Board of Union votes to delay an ordinance impacting festivals

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UNION, Wis. (WEAU) -- June, July, and August. Three months and three music festivals at Foster Farm in Union.

With more festivals and more people, the Town Board of the Town of Union passed an ordinance in January to address complaints from community members.

The music festivals, though, raised concerns with the large assembly ordinance, which would require gatherings of at least 1000 people to get a license from Union.

The Blue Ox, Country Jam, and Eaux Claires Music Festivals were worried the new ordinance could significantly impact this year's events.

However, the festivals and the board reached an agreement Tuesday afternoon to delay the start of the ordinance until October.

Board Chairperson Fred Belay said the ordinance is very similar to the existing ordinance for Eau Claire County.

"We assumed the festivals were going to be okay with that because they went to the county before and they've got their county permits and everything else. Well, it turns out the county's been giving a pass on all these things in the ordinance," said Fred Belay.

The ordinance addresses issues related to fencing, noise, and traffic -- all complaints made by people living in the area of Foster Farm where the three music festivals are held.

"We're being asked to change what we've done, which took us months to do to protect our residents, we're being asked to modify to accommodate somebody else," said Board Supervisor Deb Smith.

Representatives with the music festivals didn't want to be interviewed, but said at the meeting they want to work with the board to keep the festivals going.

Until the concerns can be discussed more in depth, the board voted three to two Tuesday to delay the start of the ordinance until October 15, 2016, which is after this year's festivals.

The board also plans to form a committee to make recommendations for possible changes to the ordinance.

If modifications or amendments aren't agreed upon by October, then the ordinance will go into effect as is.

Visit Eau Claire said the music festivals are very important for tourism to the area.

"Festivals generate 10 percent of our visitor spending for the year, so the music festivals while they're temporary are important attractions to our overall brand as well," said Visit Eau Claire Executive Director Linda John.

The music festivals also agreed to pay the Town of Union 50 cents a ticket for the average number tickets sold each day of the events this year.

Chairperson Fred Belay said the money will go to pay for the committee being formed to address possible modifications to the ordinance.

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