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New regulations could affect local special events

By Elisabeth Arriero
earriero@charlotteobserver.com

Some road race organizers and running enthusiasts in the Charlotte area are worried that new state regulations will make it difficult to plan events.

Runner Leon Harmon said the changes “will put a burden on local road races, bike races and parades.”

In June, the N.C. Department of Transportation changed its special events policy, increasing the deadline for giving notice and requiring liability insurance as well as approval from the local municipality.

This policy only applies to special events on state highway system roads, including N.C. 16 and N.C. 51. Special events may include bike races, festivals, 5Ks, charity walks or parades.

The changes, however, do not apply to events in Charlotte unless the city requests guidance from the state transportation department, said Sean Epperson, division traffic engineer with NCDOT.

One key change to the regulations is that event organizers will now have to give 90 days notice instead of 30 days. Before receiving approval from the state, organizers must also get approval from the municipality where the event takes place.

The new regulations also require event organizers to get liability insurance “just in case anything was to happen,” Epperson said.

Claude Sinclair, who founded the Lancaster Running Club in South Carolina and who has directed more than 100 races in the Charlotte region, said on his Runner from Hell Facebook page that the new restrictions may prove overly burdensome for existing races.

Sinclair was particularly opposed to the requirement for insurance, noting that some companies do not insure races if the lanes are not closed and will not insure a night race unless strict conditions are met.

“But Scott Dvorak, owner of the Charlotte Running Co., said it is a good idea to require liability insurance, especially in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing.

“In some ways I’m glad they’re doing it,” he said. “Especially with the larger events, you’ve got a lot of people in a very confined space. It’s going to be a good thing people are planning farther out and making sure they have good insurance and coverage and all that for security.”

Dvorak said that in his experience, it’s possible to get anything insured. It’s just a matter of how much organizers will have to spend.

He added that liability insurance isn’t that expensive, noting that for his annual Turkey Trot (which attracts roughly 9,000 people), the event’s million-dollar insurance policy costs about $1,000.

Epperson said that so far in 2013, Division 10 of NCDOT – which covers Anson, Cabarrus, Mecklenburg, Stanly and Union counties – has received 30 special events requests.

Epperson doesn’t expect the new regulations to be particularly burdensome on organizers.

“I can’t imagine most people planning a special event like this won’t know about it at least 90 days in advance,” he said. “I don’t see what the issue is.”

Arriero: 704-358-5945; Twitter: @earriero
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