Return to story
BY DAN McFARLAND
What should it cost to get government approval to put up a tent? Or 10 tents?
That question occupied the Orange County Board of Supervisors for nearly half an hour at its meeting Tuesday.
At their July meeting, supervisors considered a request from the Orange County Fair Association to return the $1,010 in fees for building permits for 10 tents at this year's county fair.
Discussing the request, the supervisors learned that the issue of tent inspection fees had been raised only recently. Local entities had been having tents erected for events, but had not been aware that the Virginia code required that tents holding more than 50 people, or covering more than 900 square feet, needed a building permit and inspection. One bed-and-breakfast, after having a tent erected by a vendor, learned of that requirement and, since then, the tent vendor had been making all other customers aware of it.
The county fee for such a permit, including the inspection, is $100. Noting that many more such requests for fee rebates were likely now to be received from local B&Bs, wine festivals and other such events, Supervisor Shannon Abbs questioned whether the cost to the county of inspecting 10 tents actually amounted to 10 times the cost of one such inspection.
"That might be something we need to ask [county Building Official] Bill Schwind," she said. "If you are going out to one site, does it matter if you have to look at one tent or 50 tents? How much more is required? Maybe the first tent should be $100 and every subsequent tent is $50 or something like that."
Supervisor Lee Frame noted: "This gets back to the issue of cost versus who pays it. Obviously, we've still got to pay Bill Schwind, or the people who do that. If most of his time is spent inspecting each tent, that's one thing. If most of it is the trip out there, and the inspections go very quickly, that's different.
"It's taking county staff time and using county resources. Do we shift that cost burden to the entire county or to the county fair?"
The question was tabled until Tuesday's meeting, when Schwind was present to answer the supervisors' questions. He said the state has decreed that tents must meet installation and safety standards.
He said eight surrounding counties, plus the cities of Fredericksburg and Charlottesville, charge separate tent and electrical inspection fees, which range in total from $85 to $180, with an average of $123. He said those localities do not provide discounts for multiple tents.
Orange County's $100
The board tabled the Fair Association's request again, but asked Schwind and the county staff to come up with estimates of how to handle a discount for multiple tent permits, as well as conditions to qualify for such a discount.