CHATHAM — Driven by events in Charlottesville, Pittsylvania County Sheriff Mike Taylor recently looked into the county ordinances and found there is no permitting process for county parades, demonstrations or processions, as there is in other state localities, he told the county’s legislative committee Monday.
“If there were to be an assembly, it would give us time to prepare for that,” Taylor explained of the need for a possible ordinance. “As it stands now, there is nothing. We would just get a call when they show up.”
The ordinance would require a permit to be filed with the sheriff’s office for a fee that would cover administrative costs. The legislative committee, a subcommittee made up of three members from the board of supervisors, looked at the Goochland County ordinance and the city of Lynchburg ordinance for guidance and discussed the differences in each and what they thought should be included in Pittsylvania County’s ordinance, should they have one.
One of the ordinances had a fee of $50 for funeral processions, to cover the pay for deputies. It also requires proof of liability insurance in order to remove the county from all responsibility if any harmful or destructive incidents were to occur. Pittsylvania County Attorney Vaden Hunt and Taylor were not sure if these are legally necessary to be included in permits.
The desire for a permitting process was spurred after three people died in Charlottesville on Aug. 13 during a “Unite the Right” rally that devolved into violence. Activist Heather Heyer was killed and several other were injured when a suspect drove a car into a crowd of protestors. Two state troopers were killed when a helicopter crashed while they were monitoring the situation.
Hunt believes that the three towns in Pittsylvania County — Chatham, Gretna and Hurt — each have their own police force and legislative bodies and so would not be under the jurisdiction of this ordinance. Hunt will talk with representatives of each town about their current permitting processes and to see if they would want to be covered under a county permitting process.
Under the proposal being considered by the legislative committee, if two groups were to request a permit at the same time and location, the first group to request the permit would have precedence. There is also a mechanism to appeal a denial for a permit built into both of the permit applications and ordinances that the board looked at during Monday’s meeting.
“This just gives us the vehicle to allow them to have their parade, but allows us to have the foresight to prepare for such an event,” Hunt said.
Legislative Committee Chairman and Westover District Supervisor Ron Scearce said he would like more research to be done and to have time to look over all of the possibilities before making a decision on whether to forward a proposal to the board. The other committee members concurred.
Hunt said he will bring a template of a permitting ordinance to the legislative committee, once he receives feedback from board members, to be approved line by line at a later date. After that it will be sent to the board of supervisors for discussion and a vote.
“We’re there to protect all that’s gathered,” Taylor said. “If we don’t have that prep time, we can’t have the manpower to protect that assembly from either party.”
Ceillie Simkiss reports for the Danville Register & Bee. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or (434) 791-7981.
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