Archived Story

County alters Harmony Park’s permit

Published 11:24am Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Harmony Park, the music and camping venue along the western shore of Geneva Lake, will continue hosting events this summer after Freeborn County commissioners on Tuesday approved changes to the business’s conditional-use permit.

The commissioners passed the changes with minimal discussion after the park’s owner, Jay Sullivan, last summer and fall worked with county staff to revise the permit.

“It’s been a good working effort,” said Freeborn County Administrator John Kluever. “The goal all along was to conduct this in a timely fashion so Jay could conduct business in a timely fashion.”

The changes approved Tuesday to the permit call for Harmony Park to have a reputable, insured security firm on duty for all events with more than 500 people. Sullivan must submit the security firm’s license and proof of liability insurance to Freeborn County Sheriff Bob Kindler and the county’s zoning administrator 30 days before any event.

The sheriff has to be notified of all events with more than 500 people two weeks in advance.

The permit states the park will be allowed to host a maximum of five events with more than 800 people per year. The schedule has to be submitted to the county 30 days before the first event each year and any changes to the allowed five large events must have approval of the sheriff.

Another change addressed when no-parking signs near the property should be placed when events are scheduled.

The concert promoter that caused the most problems — at the Bella Music Fest on Memorial Day weekend — will not return, said Freeborn County Board Chairman Chris Shoff. Sullivan last summer made the same statement.

Sullivan helped bring his first event of about 300 people to the park in 1991 and purchased the park in 1996. It has gone through a series of improvements since.

Harmony Park came under scrutiny last June after Kindler and other county officials expressed concern about drug use and other activities at the park. The issue arose after multiple arrests at the Bella Music Fest. Sullivan had concerns, too, noting the concert’s promoter oversold tickets and slashed security and medical staff in violation of the lease agreement.

County officials scrutinized the venue’s conditional-use permit. Alleged violations included not staying in compliance with a Minnesota Department of Health permits, not having a “reputable and insured” security firm and the need to submit a schedule of the larger festivals.

In August, almost two dozen people from both inside and outside of Freeborn County voiced support for the park, encouraging the commissioners to keep the park open and to work with Sullivan to resolve any problems with the park’s conditional-use permit. Sullivan has pointed out the venue also is popular for weddings, family reunions and other low-profile gatherings.