Who’s the biggest boss? Fayette County residents will soon find out.
The law firm representing Rick Ross says his annual Car and Bike Show will continue next month even after the county’s Department of Planning and Zoning denied a request to hold the event at the rapper’s Fayetteville estate.
It’s the latest punch thrown this week between Ross’ camp and local officials over the June 3 event, which was determined not to be in compliance with the county’s zoning ordinance, according to a letter sent Tuesday from Director Deborah L. Bell to StriKing Marketing president and car show event producer Michael J. King.
Leron E. Rogers, a partner at Fox Rothschild LLP, which represents Ross, sent a response Wednesday to Bell and the Fayette County Board of Commissioners citing alleged “inaccuracies” in the letter, and stated the event will continue as planned.
“There’s no reason to stop the event,” Rogers told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Wednesday. “This is not approval of the event. This is whether we get a permit or not. And so there’s a consequence for not getting a permit. It’s a $1,000 fine. ....
“It’s not going to stop the show.”
Last year’s event was held at Promise Land, Ross’ expansive Fayette County estate. Celebrities and fellow rappers flocked to the festivities, which featured luxury hot rods. That event, which Bell said had been described as a “horse show/rodeo/carnival and/or community fair,” was granted conditional use approval.
In the Wednesday letter, Rogers wrote that their client plans on incorporating livestock and horses into the festivities this year. He also cited dictionary definitions of “fair” and “carnival” and argued the event falls within them because it is an “organized program of entertainment and amusement in the form of music, cars and livestock.”
A large part of Tuesday’s denial by the county involved concerns over safety, noise and travel. The “intensity” of the 2022 event indicated a similar one would be “clearly out of character” with the zoning district, Bell wrote.
“The sheer number of individuals expected for the event and the traffic and noise expected as a result are not consistent with the purpose of a residential zoning district,” her letter stated.
Ross’ lawyers, however, argued they’ve learned from the problems of last year’s event, which impacted travel for local residents.
In the response letter, they said their client worked with local law enforcement to devise a traffic and safety plan, which includes offsite parking, shuttle services and hiring 250 security personnel. Rogers said attendees now have to go to a designated private area where they check in, get credentials and take a shuttle bus to the property “so there should be no traffic jam.”
“(Ross) heard the concerns of the neighborhood last year that the traffic was an issue and he spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on 63 buses shuttling people back and forth between private parking lots to alleviate that concern,” Rogers added.
Rogers stated his client initially planned to hire a private EMS company and law enforcement from other areas, but officials requested they hire people from within the county.
“As such, the denial is in direct conflict with the requests the county has already made to our client,” the letter argued.
In its response Wednesday, the county board said its position remains that “the conditional use has been denied.”
Rogers didn’t appear worried about possible action taken by law enforcement over the event, saying, “We’re on private property, what are they gonna do? We’re not breaking any laws.”
The Fayette County Sheriff’s Office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Rogers argued the denial came after months of communication and planning with county officials. He called the timing “peculiar.”
“We basically have done beyond what they’ve asked for,” Rogers stated. “We were super shocked that they sent this letter, because the day before they were corresponding with us about the plan, and everything was copacetic.”
The Wednesday letter stated an appeal and formal open records request was forthcoming. Rogers said they would seek damages if the denial was not reversed, arguing that the letter sent by the county will impact attendance numbers.
“We hope to avoid that, but we would be entitled to and be seeking damages for all the expenses that we’ve incurred and lost profits that we would incur as a result of the county’s actions,” Rogers said. “Such legal actions can still be avoided if the denial is reversed and a directive is issued to county staff to approve the conditional use permit for the event.”
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