Update: Music festival venue on hold

Pires: No comment on future of project
August 22, 2014
Dewey Beach businessman and lawyer Alex Pires said he will proceed with his plans for a country music festival in 2015. Where that event will take place is still up in the air. BY RON MACARTHUR

On the same day Sussex County Council was set to vote to deny or approve a controversial rural music venue application, council voted instead to allow the applicant to withdraw the application.

In an Aug. 18 letter to Sussex County Council, a lawyer for Dewey Beach businessman Alex Pires asked Sussex County Council to withdraw a pending conditional-use application for a music venue on 500 acres of farmland near Harbeson.

With little discussion, on Aug. 19, council voted 4-1 to allow Pires to withdraw the application. Councilwoman Joan Deaver, D-Rehoboth Beach, cast the lone vote against the request. Deaver said she wanted to vote against the application. “The application was not complete, and it would be a lot more days and cost the county a lot more money and put more stress on DelDOT and the residents,” she said. “I love the plan, but not there.”

Pires, representing Cool Spring LLC/Highway One, had plans to stage back-to-back country music concerts on part of the Baker farm in August 2015, attracting as many as 20,000 people and 5,000 RVs and campers.

“It is apparent that, when this application was first filed, there was some initial misunderstanding on my client's part as to the mandatory requirement for presentation of a preliminary site plan,” wrote attorney Stephen Spence.

It's not clear what Pires' next step will be. Among his options are another conditional-use application filed with the county or staging the events at the Delaware State Fairgrounds in Harrington. Pires would not comment on the future of the events.

Jim Chaconas, a nearby resident opposed to the project, said he thinks Pires will refile the application with the county. He said those opposed were not happy with council's move to allow the application to be withdrawn.

Spence said initially Pires believed that aerial maps and surveys submitted as part of the public record were sufficient to allow the application to proceed because no permanent site work or improvements were planned for the parcel.

“My client has taken note of the many concerns of the surrounding property owners and other interested parties and the concerns of the commission that there was insufficient detail in the submitted exhibits to make an informed recommendation as to this temporary use,” Spence wrote.

By a 4-1 vote, Sussex County Planning and Zoning Commission recommended that county council deny the application. One of the main reasons for the vote was the lack of a detailed preliminary site plan.

Spence said his client would prefer the county judge “the unique type of conditional use” on its merits.


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