Town sets high bar for Big Up

Promoters of 3-day music, arts fest in Claverack address town’s concerns

CLAVERACK–The Town’s review of the planned Big Up event, a three-day festival scheduled for August 8-10 at Hemlock Hollow Farm, is progressing as organizers of the concert continue to submit the required paperwork for the town Planning Board.

Produced by Shireworks Productions, the Big Up is a music and arts festival that will feature performances and workshops and activities like yoga and wellness clinics. More than 20 vendors will be onsite, including the Philmont Farmer’s Market.

The event is limited to a total of 5,000 people including staff, with most having tickets for the full three days and only a limited number of single-day for sale.

Previously held in Ghent in 2011, the event was approved by Claverack’s Planning Board in March with special conditions. The long list of special requirements included obtaining a public gathering permit from the county Health Department and letters from the county emergency services, fire commissioner, the Emergency Management Agency and local law enforcement approving plans for handling emergencies. The producers also were required to obtain a permit from the state Department of Health regarding emergency medical services. Some of the special conditions have been satisfied.

“The town will continue to receive and review these items to ensure that they comply with the requirements set forth by the Planning Board,” Town Board member Katy Cashen said via email.

Back in March, the Planning Board also established an escrow account for Shireworks, initially held $5,000 from the company to cover town attorney and engineer expenses. Earlier this month the Planning Board informed event organizers that an additional $7,500 would needed in escrow. The board also required a security deposit in the amount of $2,000 to cover the town’s costs for cleanup of public roadways.

But despite the conditions, some in the community are unhappy with the scope of the preparations.

Planning Board member Nathan Chess says he is concerned that the event could have negative impacts on the town. He fears safety plans may be inadequate and worries the event will attract drug use. Further, he says the increased traffic could cause serious damage to the roads, and called the $2,000 deposit inadequate.

“There really is very limited financial benefit to the town and to the people of the town in terms of this event,” said Mr. Chess in a recent phone interview.

He faults the state health department for granting the event a waiver for the size of camping space, saying there was “no clear justification” for it. While the event will have a team of doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals onsite, he also believes an ambulance should be stationed there as well.

Mr. Chess criticized the Town Board for not having filed formal objections with the state health department regarding the waivers. And though he says his opinions do not represent those of the Planning Board, he sent a letter to the Town Board late last month in which expressed his views.

Town Board member Cashen said in her email that the Planning Board is responsible for the review.

“The Town of Claverack’s zoning law gives the Planning Board, not the Town Board, jurisdiction to hear, review, and finally decide applications for special exception use permits such as the Big Up Festival,” she wrote. “The Town Board has been closely monitoring the situation and we will continue to do so.”

Ms. Cashen said by phone this week that because of the three-day tickets and the camping onsite, most attendees are expected to remain at the festival for the three days. “You don’t see people coming and going,” she said.

Mr. Chess hasn’t been the alone in opposition to the festival. Other town residents have also expressed their dissatisfaction with the idea at past board meetings, citing concern over the possibility of drug use and excessive noise levels. There were several reported drug arrests and noise complaints when the event was held in Ghent two years ago.

The Columbia County Sheriff’s Office will be onsite throughout the festival at cost to Shireworks of $14,000.

A representative of Shireworks Productions said by email that every car to enter the grounds will be searched.

“At The Big Up, we have a zero tolerance drug policy and in many ways that is enforced,” wrote event promoter Zach Levy. “We are also working with the town and our sound company to remain in compliance with noise levels during the weekend.”

Town officials set a requirement that noise levels not exceed 60 decibels.


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