Burning Man, County Reach Compromise

Burning Man
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The counterculture Burning Man festival in the Black Rock Desert north of Reno is starting to go industrial, with Washoe County's blessing.

After organizers of the annual event threatened to move away from the desert, the Washoe County Planning Commission approved a facility to fabricate wood and metal products used in the festival and to develop an automotive repair shop on 200 acres 10 miles north of the Labor Day event.

Organizers abandoned plans for a camp to temporarily house up to 100 volunteers that help set up the event annually. Instead, it seeks a much smaller camp housing 40 to 60 people in the town of Gerlach.

Washoe County's denial in May of permits needed for a camp and staging area for Burning Man was called a crippling blow by organizers, who sued the county the following month.

They threatened to move the event that attracted 30,000 people to the Black Rock Desert last year to Pyramid Lake Paiute land or south to Esmeralda County.

Organizers say the county's actions are acceptable.

Opponents say they don't see much point in continuing their fight.

"Overall, the solutions we've come up with make everybody happy, including us," festival spokeswoman Marian Goodell said. "We don't think we're going to have any problems."

Susie Jackson, who was one of the critics who successfully appealed previous plans for Burning Mans staging area, said she remains opposed, but resigned.

"I object to Burning Man on lots of levels," Jackson said. "I'm not pleased but we've basically fought this for so long we're giving up. It's pretty futile."

Property owners Kevin and Julia Brittner said the concerns that prompted them to fight the staging area in their valley last year have been addressed.

Julia Brittner said Burning Man organizers have made major strides in cleaning up the land where activities have occurred for years without county permits and that plans to move the camp into Gerlach represent another significant improvement.

"I think Burning Man has shown a good-faith effort in addressing our needs," Brittner said. "They have a right to use their property and I think they're taking the right path this time."