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EPHRATA — The Grant County Planning Department is considering a request from The Gorge Amphitheatre owner Live Nation to expand its operation to include more festivalgoers and more facilities for them.

Live Nation applied this month to change its land-use classification from Recreation Development to Master Planned Resort, and states it hopes to open a restaurant, cafe, cabins, outdoor cinema, grocery and camping stores, more stage space, additional RV spaces and camping locations.

Phase one of the project is slated to begin next year, with planning department and county commission approval, and would add more than 1,000 camping sites and recreation site additions.

Grant County commissioners Cindy Carter and Carol-ann Swartz said the plans sound good to them.

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“I think it’s going to clean up some of the concerns that I have,” Carter said. She said the plan lessens her concerns that the site is putting a burden on the nearby Quincy Valley Medical Center and County Fire District No. 3, which respond to the venue in cases of emergency.

The application states that this expansion of the facility would allow it to be a more “self-contained” facility, which Carter said sounds like a positive change.

“With a cinema and other recreational opportunities they’re creating, hopefully there will be less of a desire to get into trouble,” she said. She added that with more people and stores comes additional tax revenue for the county, hospital and fire districts.

Commissioner Swartz agrees and called the change “a smart business plan.”

“If they’re going to have a restaurant and store, then there is no reason to get on the highway,” Swartz said, decreasing DUIs and other negative aspects of the concerts.

Live Nation and the Quincy Valley Medical Center have been at odds since the hospital accused the concert-promoter of bringing in patrons that rack up unpaid hospital bills. The hospital said events at The Gorge cost it about $400,000 last year in delinquent bills and increased staff to handle the additional patients.

Over the Memorial Day weekend, the hospital said about half of the 100 emergency room patients were in town for The Gorge’s Sasquatch music festival.

Representatives from the two sides met in April, and the hospital asked to be included in a concert-management agreement Live Nation signs with Grant County.

“I think Live Nation is wanting to do the right thing. I know Quincy Valley Medical Center gets frustrated because there is not a lot of open dialogue. But when you start pointing fingers and making accusations, sometimes those lines close and I think that’s what happened here,” Swartz said.

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