After a 2.5-hour public hearing on July 10, Sussex County Planning and Zoning commissioners delayed making a recommendation regarding the use of a Harbeson farm for a country music festival in 2015.
Dozens of Sussex County residents voiced their opinions Thursday over plans to hold a three-day country music festival on a farm in Harbeson next summer.
“I’m totally opposed to it, obviously,” Georgetown resident Charles Pickering said. “The primary reason is those roads can’t handle that kind of traffic. It’s a great idea – I like country music as much as anybody – but it’s the wrong location.”
Meanwhile, others like Harbeson-area resident Tony Susi said the benefits would outweigh any traffic concerns.
“When you hear everybody talk about how many people it’s going to employ … that’s a bonus for everybody,” he said.
Those comments came during a Sussex County Planning and Zoning Commission hearing on Dewey Beach businessman Alex Pires request for a conditional use permit that would allow a 1,057-acre farm on Hollyville Road in Harbeson to host up to five events throughout the year, including a country music festival planned for August 2015.
Pires said he has signed a long-term lease with the Baker family to use their farm off Hollyville Road.
But he also said he’s secured an agreement with Harrington’s Delaware State Fairgrounds in Kent County if the Sussex County location does not work out.
“My preference is Sussex County for all the obvious reasons,” he said. “[It will be] the prettiest, nicest, biggest country music festival in the country.”
Pires said he does not expect more than 25,000 people to attend the event and would be willing to cap the number of attendees.
He also said he’s hoping the majority of attendees will camp at the site to reduce traffic flow to and from the event.
But residents like Pickering argued that Hollyville Road and the surrounding area cannot handle the traffic such an event would bring.
Mark Cote, the Delaware Department of Transportation’s assistant director for development coordination, said Pires’ conditional use application does not warrant a traditional traffic impact study because the traffic impact would be temporary.
Cote said a more specialized analysis of possible traffic impacts could be conducted but did not specify if DelDOT was planning on conducting the analysis.
After more than two hours of testimony and resident comments, the planning and zoning commission opted to postpone making decision on whether to recommend Sussex County Council approve or deny Pires’ request.
Commission chairman Robert Wheatley said he does not expect that decision to come until at least July 24 and possibly as late as Aug. 7.
If Sussex County Council does not provide a final approval of the conditional use for the Harbeson property, Pires said he will take advantage of his agreement with the Delaware State Fairgrounds in Harrington.
“Whether I do it here or at another location, this is going to happen,” he said.