July 1, 2008

Festival a Concern in Springfield

By Jake Palmateer, The Daily Star, Oneonta, N.Y.

Jul. 1--The review of a proposed arts and music festival in the town of Springfield is in its early stages.

The Springfield Planning Board is expected to declare itself the lead agency under the state Environmental Quality Review Act process Thursday and set the date for a public hearing, board Chairwoman Mary Clarke said.

Madison Square Garden Entertainment is seeking the purchase of about 1,000 acres of farmland in Springfield in order to hold an annual, three-day festival in the summer. The festival would be similar to the Coachella in California and Bonnaroo in Tennessee, which are annual, multi-day concerts were attendees camp on-site.

MSG officials have said the concert could attract 75,000 people to Springfield, a town of 1,350. That is about the same number that attended last year's National Baseball Hall of Fame induction in Cooperstown.

"It's very preliminary and we are going to be following SEQR right through," Clarke said Monday.

The Springfield Planning Board meets at 7 p.m. in the Springfield Community Center.

SEQR requires all local governments to consider environmental impacts equally with social and economic factors during discretionary decision-making, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.

There is a separate approval process for the site plan submitted by MSG. The site plan review, which typically culminates in an up-down vote by the planning board, has not begun, Clarke said.

"There is a long way to go to get to that," she said.

Also on Thursday, the Springfield Planning Board is expected to determine which agencies it will invite to be a part of the SEQR process.

The DEC, the state Department of Health and Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation will likely weigh in on the project, Clarke said.

The SEQR process allows for the board to decide what environmental issues MSG will have to address in order for the project to move forward.

There are some people who are very much opposed to it and some people who are in favor of it, Clarke said.

"Both groups are going to have a chance to voice objections," Clarke said.

Springfield Town Supervisor Thomas Armstrong said he thinks a majority of people in town are in favor of the project.

"I have probably talked to as many people as anybody ... and actually, people aren't really against it," Armstrong said.

But Springfield resident Maureen Culbert said the festival is a bad idea for quiet Springfield in northern Otsego County. She said she and others, including the Amish community in Springfield, are opposed to the festival.

"There are a lot of issues we're concerned about," Culbert said.

Traffic, noise, pollution and lights rank high on her list.

Last month, the town board tabled a proposed moratorium that would halt all large developments until the town finishes a comprehensive plan. The issue of a moratorium is expected to be taken up at the July 14 town board meeting.


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