GEORGETOWN, Del. - A country music festival might be on its way to Delmarva, but first organizers need to overcome some fierce opposition to the plan. Dewey Beach businessman Alex Pires filed an application for land use on behalf of Cool Spring LLC/ Highway One in April. Thursday night at a Sussex County Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, he made his pitch in front of a crowd of approximately 200 people. In the at times heated hearing, dozens spoke up from both sides of the argument.
It was so crowded that many people had to wait outside the room, looking in. Dozens more stood along the walls of the room, watching the debate proceed.
Alex Pires told the group the event would be a family-centered festival that would promote camping, so as to limit traffic coming in and out of the venue. He said he expected major economic benefits to the county.
"We're going to spend $5 or $6 million," he said. "We think the benefits to the community is probably in the $10-15 million range. Every gas station, every restaurant, every hotel, every motel, every food service, every Wawa, every royal farms... And we're just going to have a lot of happy people. That's the biggest benefit."
Neighbors have been less enthused about the plans though. The proposed venue is at the Baker's farm in the Harbeson area. The farm is a gigantic 1,057 acre farm, located between Johnson Road, Avalon Road, Hollyville Road, and Lawson Road.
One of the major entrances on Avalon Road, is just a couple hundred feet from the Avalon Woods Community. Willie Nelson, the president for that community's Homeowner's Association said he has major concerns with noise, public safety, and above all traffic.
"They do not want to be stuck in their community," he said of his neighbors.
Nelson took WBOC to the main entrance to show just how small the adjacent rural road is.
"If you look," he said pointing at the road. "There is no shoulder. We have school busses which are coming in here. Or DART busses. And at the same time -- to have campers and large RVs and semi-trailer rigs bringing in stage equipment... We're going to be tied up. And we're going to be parking in ditches just to let them go by."
Dozens at the meeting were in favor of the meeting as well, including Laurel resident Chase Cline.
"I'm very pro for this festival," he said. "I went to Firefly and it was just a good time. It was very fun. It's good for the economy too. And I would love a little vacation to camp out and listen to good music."
Planning and Zoning has 45 days to issue a recommendation to Sussex County Council. The council expects to have a public hearing of its own on July 22.