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Milford Beacon
  • Sussex County music festival brought to a halt

  • Sussex County businessman Alex Pires has pulled a conditional land-use application that would have brought a country music festival and other events to a farm in Harbeson.
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  • Sussex County businessman Alex Pires proposal to bring a country music festival and other events to a farm in Harbeson was officially withdrawn Tuesday.
    Sussex County Council approved the request for withdrawal during with a 4-1 vote. Councilwoman Joan Deaver cast the lone dissenting vote.
    “It was going to lose, he knew it was going to lose and I wanted to vote no on it,” she said. “He didn’t do a good job when he made the application. … I’d love to have one of those music festivals [in Sussex County], but it’s just not in the right place.”
    Pires had been seeking a conditional use permit that would have allowed him to host the festival on up to 500 acres of a nearly 1,100-acre farm near Harbeson. His permit request also included plans for four other events a year, including one other music festival and three one-day charity events.
    Council’s vote Tuesday means Pires will be able to reapply for a permit at any time, rather than the one-year mandatory waiting period that would have been imposed if the request had been defeated.
    As a result, Sussex County Council’s vote was met with boos Tuesday from opponents of the proposal.
    Sussex County resident Bill Oliva was one audience member who disagreed with council’s decision.
    Oliva, who lives just a mile from the proposed venue, said he objected to the festival due to safety and traffic concerns. He said he also felt Pires was not thorough with his application.
    “I think [Pires] has done absolutely nothing to prove that this project either meets zoning or is worthy of being accepted by Sussex County for whatever reasons,” he said. “Time and time again, he has not provided any information that they have requested … The regulations and statues are very clear as to what is needed, despite that fact he has completely ignored what is required.”
    Council’s vote Tuesday came 12 days after Sussex County’s Planning and Zoning Commission voted to recommend that Pires application be denied based on a lack of detail provided in the site plan.
    Commissioners said specific site plans were not provided for the proposed festival location.
    Sussex County Council reviewed the planning and zoning commission’s recommendation on Aug. 12, followed by a vote to table the issue until Tuesday.
    On Monday, Pires officially requested that his application be withdrawn through a letter submitted to Sussex County Council by his attorney.
    “There was some initial misunderstanding on my client’s part as to the mandatory requirement for presentation of a preliminary site plan,” the letter states. “While it is clear in the County Code that a preliminary site plan is required as part of the application process for conditional use applications generally, my client believed that its aerial maps and surveys submitted at the time of the application were sufficient to allow the application to proceed…”
    Page 2 of 2 - Pires could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
    However, he previously has stated that he may be willing to move the proposed festival to the Harrington State Fairgrounds.
    “I’ll go elsewhere but … I wanted to do it in Sussex County, that was my first choice,” Pires said in a phone interview earlier this month.

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