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Milford Beacon
  • Neighbors object to proposed country music festival location

  • As planning for a country music festival continues in Sussex County, some nearby residents are objecting to the event’s proposed location, saying they do not want thousands of people camping in their backyards.
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  • As planning for a country music festival continues in Sussex County, some nearby residents are objecting to the event’s proposed location, saying they do not want thousands of people camping in their backyards.
    “When I retired here, I didn’t expect something like this would happen; no one did,” said Jim Chaconas, who lives on Avalon Road near Harbeson, just east of Georgetown. “It’s peaceful out here.”
    Chaconas says he’s worried that could change in August 2015, when local businessman Alex Pires is planning to host a multi-day country music festival that could bring 15,000 attendees to the nearby 1,057-acre Baker Farm, located on Hollyville Road in Harbeson.
    Comparatively, last year’s three-day Firefly Music Festival in Dover saw roughly 200,000 attendees. The annual Punkin Chunkin Tournament in Bridgeville, which also runs three days, draws over 100,000 people.
    Pires signed a lease April 14 to use about 500 acres of the Baker Farm, a deal that runs for two years and allows for an extension of up to three years.
    On behalf of his company, Coolspring, LLC/Highway One Limited Partnership, Pires filed a conditional use application with Sussex County on April 21 requesting use of land in an agricultural residential district for an outdoor entertainment facility with no permanent structures.
    A Sussex County Planning & Zoning Commission public hearing is set for July 10 and a Sussex County Council public hearing will be held July 22.
    Chaconas, who has lived on Avalon Road for 12 years, said he and his neighbors have several concerns, including property depreciation, privacy, security, noise and roadside trash.
    He’s nicknamed the proposed festival “Woodstock II.”
    Of utmost concern, Chaconas said, is heavy traffic on the area’s back roads.
    “These roads can’t handle heavy traffic,” he said. “They’re too narrow.”
    Tim Riale has lived on Lawson Road, facing Baker Farm, for four years. And, before that, he spent a short time living next to William and Betty Hurdle’s field on Hollyville Road, where Punkin Chunkin was held from 1998 to 2006.
    “During Punkin Chunkin, we were prisoners in our home for three days due to traffic,” he said. “There are more appropriate places to [hold a country music festival] and this isn’t it.”
    A real estate broker, Riale said he believes the proposed festival would decrease his property value. Also, he doesn’t want a festival environment to materialize across the street from his home.
    “I don’t have anything against drinking, but I don’t want a bunch of drunk, brawling people around my house or my children,” he said.
    Page 2 of 2 - Pires said he is well aware of the discontent brewing among the neighbors of the Baker Farm and said he’s willing to meet with anyone who has questions.
    If his conditional use application is not approved by Sussex County, Pires said he has secured a backup location in open fields at the Harrington Fairgrounds in Kent County.
    But, he said he would rather hold the event in Harbeson because he lives and owns businesses in Sussex County.
    “We’re going to do the festival in August 2015 at one site or the other,” he said, adding that camping sites would be available for use.
    Pires owns several businesses in Dewey Beach, including the Rusty Rudder, the Bottle & Cork and Jimmy’s Grille.
    To plan the festival, he’s partnered with Coran Capshaw, the manager of big-name acts like the Dave Matthews Band, Phish, Tim McGraw and Alicia Keys.
    “Country is the largest segment of the American music scene and there are no country music festivals in this area,” Pires said. “We’ve had major country stars play in Dewey and we’ve done well with it. There’s a market for country in Delaware.”

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