(CelebrityAccess MediaWire) – The much embattled Ford Amphitheatre in Tampa, Florida, has been given the go ahead to continue hosting concerts for the time being, but the fight isn’t completely over.
A judge ruled last week that Clear Channel Communications’ operation of the amphitheater is beyond the county’s authority because the facility sits on state-owned land.
Hillsborough County officials have tried to muzzle the loud concerts held at the shed since last year, armed with plenty of recorded violations of noise ordinance.
Clear Channel has operated the $23-million amphitheater on the 17 acres of land it leases from the Florida State Fair Authority. Since the Fair Authority is a state entity, it is therefore exempt from local rules.
The decision didn’t help Hillsborough County’s Environmental Protection Commission, which has paid more than $200,000 in legal fees while attempting to shutter the shed. EPC general counsel Rick Tschantz told the St. Petersburg Times that the ruling was an “obstacle,” but one that could be cleared.
The ruling also did not please the nearby residents, whose complaints over the past year have fueled the entire debate.
“We just want them to turn the music down,” neighbor George Jacobs told the Times. “If my neighbor played his radio loud and I could hear it like I do these concerts, he’d get arrested real quick. That they do it on state land shouldn’t be an excuse for them to get away with it.”
The ruling did not spell a final victory for CCC, however, as they still need to convince the judge that the company qualifies for the same exemption that the fair authority has. CCC attorney Don Conwell said the decision was an important step in dismissing the county’s lawsuit against the company.
“It’s a big win for the Fair Authority and Clear Channel,” Conwell told the paper. “We needed this sovereign immunity, or we lose.”
The intent of the sovereign immunity is to prevent federal and state governments from being affected by rules imposed by lesser governments such as cities or counties. The case is scheduled to return to court on August 27th. –by CelebrityAccess Staff Writers