Fee Increases Violate Federal Law, Threaten Ability To Do Business In State
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RENO, Nev. — Today the organizers of Burning Man filed a lawsuit against Pershing County, Nev., to stop the county’s attempt to impose a drastic increase in fees on the annual weeklong event, which is held on public land managed by the U.S. government. This action will not affect the 2012 event.
“For more than 20 years, the Burning Man community has proudly made northern Nevada its home, providing millions of dollars annually to the local economy,” said Larry Harvey, the founder of Burning Man. “We love Nevada. Unfortunately, Pershing County is making it difficult to continue doing business here. We intend to resolve this matter through reasonable means and work collaboratively with Nevadans to keep our business in the state.”
Black Rock City, LLC, is the company that organizes the Burning Man event each year in the Black Rock Desert. Pursuant to requirements of the Bureau of Land Management, which manages federal land, BRC has annually compensated Pershing County for all documented, event-related costs since 2005. As part of a separate agreement negotiated with Pershing County over disagreements about the applicability of the county’s festival ordinance, BRC has additionally contributed a total of $395,600 to Pershing County and local charitable organizations that serve its residents.
In early 2011, the county insisted that BRC pay a significantly higher fee by entering into a new agreement. BRC complied with this request in order to maintain good relations with the county. But then in May of this year, the county breached this agreement with BRC and imposed a much higher fee of $400,000.
This fee is $280,000 more than the county incurred in event-related expenses for the 2011 event and much more than the estimated $180,000 law enforcement cost for the event in 2012 cited by a representative from the Pershing County Sheriff’s Office. County commissioners said the 2013 fee would be $600,000 to $800,000 and could exceed $1 million in the future.
“These fees are arbitrary and capricious,” Harvey said. “It is wrong for the county to bully us in an attempt to balance its books. We are being treated like a piggy bank. We do not think that this government or any government has the right to do this.”
The Burning Man event has been held in the Black Rock Desert for more than 20 years and is a keystone contributor to the economy of northern Nevada. There are no vendors at the event; the only goods sold are coffee and ice, the proceeds of which go to local charities. The event accounts for more traffic to the Reno-Tahoe International Airport annually than almost any other, and participants spend at least $15 million in the area before, during and after the event.
Finally, we ask that Burners consider taking the high road while this lawsuit works its way through the judicial system.