QUEENSBURY -- The owner of West Mountain ski center failed to get town Planning Board approval for a multi-day music festival scheduled for Aug. 3-5 at the ski center, said Craig Brown, the town zoning administrator, on Thursday.
Holding the festival without the approval could result in the town taking legal action, Brown said.
Mike Barbone said the festival, called Freedom of Expression 2, will go on as planned, without the approval.
“I’m going to have the festival here for three days,” Barbone said. “It’s a business decision on the part of West Mountain, and I’m going to do it.”
Barbone said there was not enough time to go through the Planning Board application and hearing process before Aug. 3, and he disputed that a Planning Board approval is necessary.
Town Supervisor Dan Stec said it’s unfortunate that Barbone intends to hold the festival without approval.
Whether the town takes legal action may hinge on reaction from neighbors.
“Maybe some of the town’s response to him moving forward with this event without the permit may very well be guided by reaction we get from the neighbors,” he said.
Stec said he hopes neighbors will contact town officials and express their thoughts now, rather than after the festival.
“Maybe the best thing I can do right now is say, ‘We’d be interested in hearing from the neighbors before the event whether there’s a big concern,’” he said.
The festival will have a lineup of 35 alternative and hip-hop acts appearing on three music stages, including a main stage under a big tent, according to Upstate Productions, the festival promoter.
A fourth stage will feature comedians, dramatic skits, yoga instruction and arts workshops.
Between 500 and 1,500 people are expected to attend, Tim Sullivan, of Upstate Productions, has said.
Sullivan did not return an e-mail message on Thursday seeking comment for this report.
Barbone disputed that the town Planning Board approval is necessary.
“I’m zoned for it. I’m zoned recreation and commercial,” he said.
Barbone said concerts and festivals, including several with overnight camping, were held at West Mountain in the past, under previous ownership, without the town requiring Planning Board approval.
“We’ve had Fourth of July concerts here with 5,000-plus people, and all of a sudden now we have to have permits,” he said.
But Brown said town zoning code requires Planning Board approval for an outdoor event of the size and scope of the festival, which includes overnight camping, regardless of how the property is zoned.
Stec said that the whole purpose of the special use permit is to give neighbors a chance to raise concerns about issues such as noise and sanitation, and to make sure those concerns are addressed.
“Now maybe the neighbors won’t care. But you won’t know that unless you conduct these kind of reviews,” he said.
Stec said Barbone should have checked with the town.
Anthony Sarraino, marketing assistant at West Mountain, said Wednesday the event had been cleared with the town.
But Brown said Thursday that the first he heard about the festival was when The Post-Star contacted town officials on Wednesday to inquire about it.
Brown said the chances are “almost nil” that a special Planning Board meeting could be scheduled before Aug. 3, because of a 10-day public notice requirement.
Contacted Thursday, Sarraino said he spoke with a Town Board member in July, who told him the festival fit within town zoning, and no other approvals or permits were necessary.
Sarraino said he did not remember which Town Board member he spoke with.
Stec said no one from West Mountain spoke with him or any other Town Board members.
Ronald Montesi, the 2nd Ward councilman, and John Strough, the 3rd Ward councilman, told The Post-Star that no one from West Mountain spoke with them about the festival, and 1st Ward Councilman Anthony Metivier said he did not recall anyone from West Mountain speaking with him about the festival.
Timothy Brewer, 4th Ward councilman, had not returned a voice mail message seeking comment, as of 5 p.m. Thursday.
Brown said there are several actions the town could take if the festival is held without Planning Board approval.
“We’d have to take them to court and the judge would have to find them guilty,” he said. “But that depends. Do we call it a violation? Or do we just write them up and say, ‘Don’t do it again.’ I don’t know.”
Brown said he had not yet researched what the maximum potential fine would be.
Brown, like Stec, said the decision might hinge on the neighborhood’s reaction.
“If it’s a two-band thing and four people show up, it’s probably not a big deal,” he said. “But if it turns into a large problem and there’s lots of noise complaints, there are certain penalties in the town code that address this.”
Strough, Montesi and Metivier, like Stec, said they would wait to see if the festival actually is held before they consider what action the town should take.
Barbone said he’s trying to diversify his business during a tough economy.
“This is what we need to do to try to survive and try to bring in more cash flow in the summer,” he said.
“He’s trying to generate revenue. We respect that,” Stec said. “But clearly, the purpose for this special use permit review that the Planning Board would conduct is to answer the questions that may arise from the neighbors about things like noise and sanitation.”