Gridlock from festivals and RV campground

July 25, 2014

Sussex County is sorting out whether, where, when…basically what to do with proposals to utilize available open space, especially farmland, to provide other types of vacation experiences.

The most recent example is a proposal to create an entertainment venue on farmland south of Georgetown. This country music festivals proposal has now been discussed at two public hearings: July 10 before the Sussex County Planning and Zoning Commission and July 22 before SussexCounty Council. The meetings were lengthy - three hours or more - because many came to speak about risks to health and security, impingements on local life, and the environment.

The proposed country music festivals sound quite innocent. They would be limited to two three-day musical festivals in August 2015, with tickets to be sold on line beginning in September 2014. Tickets for day passes are to be limited to 1-2,000 vehicles per day. The goal is to have 80 to 90 percent of those attending come and camp in RVs. This could be 5,000 or more RVs!

The plan is to attract at least 20,000 people, but be able to accommodate more than 25,000. The organizers will promote the event to people with RVs who agree to pay for and stay on the RV campground throughout the three-day festival. They cannot leave and come back in. Thus, it is said, there would be little impact on vacation businesses (accommodations and restaurants) along the coast that are already crowded at this time.

But there will be new gridlocked roads to add to Highway 1, and routes 24, 404/9. In short, it will add to existing gridlock conditions, making it even more difficult to get an emergency vehicle to Beebe.

The real problem is that the country music venue location is only accessible via rural roads not designed to accommodate the number of RVs and cars coming to enter the site. Not only are the roads simple two-lane roads with no shoulders. The entry gravel road, to be constructed through a woodland stand of prime aged oaks by the organizers, will have limited capacity as well.

In addition there will be large size work vehicles coming and going weeks before and after to landscape the farm land, layout the campgrounds, establish the internal gravel roads, put up and take down a security fence around the 500 acres, as well as do the temporary staging and other the “set up,” operations, campground provisions, sanitation, trash.

Many urge this project needs to be at Harrington or a similar established venue, that have much easier road access and established infrastructure.

Wisely, actions were deferred after the two hearings. More land-use plan details were requested July 10. Sussex County Council also asked DelDOT to do its own analysis of the traffic implications and road capacities. A big pause is indeed warranted.

Phoebe Cottingham

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