Nevada ranch community appeals Burning Man permit approvals
April 11, 2003
RENO — Residents of a ranching community plan to fight a county panel’s approval of a plan called crucial to the future of the Burning Man counterculture festival on the Nevada desert.
The residents want the Washoe County Commission to reverse the planning commission’s approval of a permanent staging area for Burning Man in Hualapai Valley.
Residents of the valley, 10 miles northwest of the Black Rock Desert playa where Burning Man takes place the week leading up to Labor Day, say the present staging area is a junkyard and eyesore.
“We were certainly disappointed by the planning commission’s action,” said Hualapai Valley resident Donna Potter. “I don’t think they really took into account the people who are affected and live in that area.”
Potter said residents do not oppose the festival itself.
Burning Man spokeswoman Marian Goodell said organizers have taken steps to clean up the current site and are confident county commissioners will uphold approval of four special use permits.
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Organizers are seeking approval to operate the staging area called Black Rock Station on 200 acres they own about 120 miles north of Reno. Without the staging area, organizers say they can’t manage the logistics of the festival that transforms barren desert into a small city complete with streets and an air strip.
Billed as a celebration of art and radical self-expression in which nudity and drugs are not uncommon, the event drew more than 29,000 people from 40 states and 20 countries last year.
“Burning Man’s ethic is to do what’s right and get along with others,” Goodell said. “I’m extremely optimistic that almost all of the neighbors’ concerns can be resolved.”
The residents plan to file their appeal by a 5 p.m. Friday deadline, Potter said.
The matter probably would go to the commission in May, assistant planner Roger Pelham said.
Organizers want to store vehicles and supplies at the site year-round. They also want permission for 120 volunteers to stay there during the weeks before and after the festival. The permits would allow a facility for making festival art, a storage facility for a vehicle fleet, a salvage yard for used art and building supplies, and a campground for volunteers and staff.
For the past five years, the staging area was on an adjacent 80-acre leased site.
Potter said the site’s collection of abandoned cars, trucks and other junk can be seen from eight miles away, and violates county zoning that restricts private property in the area for open space and agriculture.
Gerlach, which is 20 miles south of the proposed staging area, “is zoned for salvage operations and we would support their special use permits there,” she said.
But Goodell said such operations clearly are allowed in Hualapai Valley.
The planning commission approved the four special use permits April 1, but imposed 97 conditions that must be met within three years.
Organizers said the original schedule for meeting the conditions was unrealistic, but the timeline since has been relaxed to their satisfaction.