Britt Fest Expansion Stymied

A plan to expand the Britt Festival facility in Jacksonville, Ore., hit a snag when the owners of some adjacent property backed out of the deal.

Britt Festival Executive Director Ron McUne said organizers were set to purchase two parcels of land to use for disabled and truck parking near the 2,200-seat venue. But the residents changed their minds about selling.

“The whole issue is around handicapped parking right now. It’s a difficult site because it’s a hillside amphitheatre that has about a 20 percent grade in most places,” McUne told Pollstar. “We have a wheelchair ramp that people can drive up to but we don’t have any on-site handicapped-designated parking spaces. We have to park them across the street.

“Every time you upgrade a facility, you have to come into better compliance as far as the Americans with Disabilities Act is concerned. So we’re back to the drawing board looking at alternative sites and options.”

Jacksonville residents were concerned when the idea of exercising eminent domain to secure the property was floated back in August. Despite the current setback, McUne said that is still not an option.

“Jackson County is our landlord and they or the City of Jacksonville are really the only authorities who could exercise eminent domain. They have both said, ‘We don’t want to go there,'” he explained. “Britt Festival certainly doesn’t want to go there, either. It’s got to either be a willing seller or nothing as far as we’re concerned.”

McUne said the project is still going through the public hearing process, so the city planning commission has postponed its next meeting until November 9th to allow time to find a solution.

“We’ve got a pretty restrictive site. We’re in a residential neighborhood on a steep hillside,” he said. “It’s a lovely performance venue but it’s got its drawbacks because of its topography. Those are some of the things we are trying to overcome.”

The Britt Festival sold more than 80,500 tickets this year over its 45-concert season — a new record for the 43-year-old event. Sold-out shows included Mark Knopfler, The Doobie Brothers, Tony Bennett, and Sara Evans.

— Tina Amendola