Jim Chaconas moved to rural Sussex County 12 years ago, purchased 12 acres and settled in for retirement. Jim, a Vietnam War veteran, was a Baltimore County police officer for 32 years.
Living on Avalon Road between Lewes and Georgetown, Chaconas never imagined he would be front and center, rallying his neighbors against a major Sussex land-use issue.
Chaconas lives around the corner from the proposed music festival venue being promoted by Alex Pires of Dewey Beach, and Chaconas is not happy about it. “I have no problem with someone making money, but why not go to an area that's prepared to handle something like this?” Chaconas asked. He suggested the Delaware State Fair grounds and Dover Downs International Speedway as possible venues.
Pires, of Cool Spring LLC, c/o Highway One Limited Partnership in Dewey Beach, has filed an application with the county for a conditional use for an outdoor entertainment facility with temporary camping facilities on 500 acres of AR-1, agricultural-residential, land. The parcel contains both farmland and wooded sections. Located in a rural area south of Harbeson between routes 5 and 30 and north of Avalon Road, the parcel is planted in winter wheat and corn.
Public hearings are scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday, July 10, before planning and zoning commission and at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 22, before county council.
Pires signed an agreement April 14 with M&M Farms LLC to lease the property for no more than five festivals, concerts, fundraising events or competitions per year. The lease forbids racing-type events or other activities involving vehicles. The parcel would be left untouched except when events take place, and there will be no permanent structures. The lease allows temporary structures such as tents and stages.
The terms of the lease would allow two events up to four days long and three additional events lasting one day, not counting set-up and break-down time. The lease was signed by property owners Mark Baker representing M&M Farm LLC and Wayne Baker representing Hollyville Farms LLC.
Pires said he would not comment on the application until the July public hearings.
From the information he has read in county records, Chaconas fears the proposed music festivals would overwhelm the area with vehicles, traffic, noise and trash. Most of all, he fears the tranquility of the area will be disturbed. “If they think it's so great, they can have it in their backyard,” Chaconas said.
He plans to erect a sign along Avalon Road to voice his displeasure with the idea; he's urging other neighbors to do the same.
“People will be coming from all over and living here for three or four days. I'm calling this idea Woodstock II,” he said. “Keeping away from this type of thing is why we moved here.
“People started calling me to see what is going on,” he said, adding there are more than 40 property owners within 200 feet of the proposed festival venue. “It's not just me, but just about everybody around here is upset.”
Chaconas said public records reveal Delaware Department of Transportation is estimated the events could draw 18,550 vehicles per day on Hollyville Road; the average daily traffic count is just over 2,000 vehicles per day. “Can you imagine about 20,000 cars going by here?” he asked as he looked at Avalon Road.
Chaconas said he can't understand why DelDOT did not require a traffic impact study. “These are rural roads not meant to handle heavy traffic,” he said.
Chaconas said he has been contacted by a lawyer representing Pires. “He is willing to meet with me, but I'm not going by myself,” he said. “I want other people there.”