Second Public Hearing Brings More Opposition - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Second Public Hearing Brings More Opposition

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GEORGETOWN, De. - When Planning and Zoning held their public hearing on July 10, hundreds of people came out to voice their support and opposition to a country music festival in the Harbeson area. Approximately two weeks later on Tuesday afternoon about 100 showed up to voice their opinion, primarily in opposition. 

The County Council heard from dozens of neighbors who said they were against the festival, citing potential problems with noise, traffic, pollution, and crime.

The venue would be a large 1,000 acre farm, owned by the Baker family. The organizer of the event, Alex Pires told the council that he was applying for conditional use to hold special events on the property. He said his plan was to have two three-day music festivals in August 2015 as well as three one-day charity events on the location. 

Pires said that he was planning to spend more than $5 million on the festivals, expecting to have approximately 20,000 people attend, primarily in RVs. He emphasized that this event would be focused on campers, who would stay on the property for multiple days at a time. 

At the hearing dozens spoke up in opposition to the plan, including Trudy Belotti a nearby neighbor. 

"It's very tranquil and quiet," she said of her community. "Why would we want everything turned upside down. That's not what we moved here for."

Also at the meeting were neighbors Pam and Woody Balthaser, who live in the Avalon Woods Development. That community along with Independence are the two main groups that are in opposition to this festival. 

"It's going to make it awful here," said Pam. "It's going to be so noisy. You won't be able to enjoy yourself. Now we can sit out on our porch on the 4th of July and not hear a thing but the birds." 

She is worried that this would change if the festival is allowed in the nearby farm. 

"I really don't like the idea of this happening," she said. "It's going to ruin the quiet. It's going to ruin everything for us out here. And I think there are other places where they can do it." 

Pires told the council that he planned on holding the event in Harrington, if the council denied his request. Nonetheless he said he preferred to hold it in Harbeson, since he is a Sussex County local. He said it would have a major impact on Sussex businesses. 

"There are a lot of companies here in Sussex County," he said. "And in Delaware. That can do the work. I don't think we have to go outside of the state. And I think we can spend the money here. And I think it leads to other spending."

Pires estimated that the festival will bring in between $10 and $12 million to the county. He said this economic boost makes the inconvenience worthwhile. 

"This is a total of eight days out of 365," he said. "The rest of the time that farm will be quiet." 

Some neighbors like Chris Incorvaia told WBOC that this economic boost would be too big to pass up. 

"Economically I'm on board," he said. "There's been a lot of restaurants that have closed down in the area. Maybe this will bring them back. There's been some new building in the area and this is going to help it." 

But Balthaser said that the problems would just be too extreme, not only for the local community but for the entire section of the county. 

"I know that people think that just here is going to be bad," she said. "But it's all surrounding areas. On 24, you can't get out even now. You can't get out to the beach or anything. So it's going to be awful." 

The council deferred on the vote, requesting that the Delaware Department of Transportation conducts an analysis of the roads adjacent to the property, in order to provide a potential plan for the festival. They will be presenting their findings to the council in the following meeting on July 29. 

The council is also waiting for a suggestion from the Planning and Zoning Commission, which held their public hearing on July 10. That commission needs to issue the council a suggestion within 45 days of their hearing. 

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