Northampton officials concerned over music festival

NORTHAMPTON – Town officials began the new year with discussion of an old issue Wednesday.

The town expects the first event to fall under its new mass gathering law to be an annual music festival officials cited as the inspiration for the ordinance.

The law – adopted in October and filed with the state in November – came about after residents and officials expressed concerns about noise and disruption from music festivals at Solid Rock Horse Rescue on Maple Grove Road, just north of Northville.

During the public comment portion of Wednesday’s meeting, one resident told the board the ranch is advertising for “The MAMA Strawberry Jam Festival 2013” on Facebook with the location set at the Solid Rock Horse Rescue from May 16 to 19.

Town Code Enforcement Officer Matt Ginter told the board he spoke with Deborah Bant, owner of the ranch, and warned her she would be ticketed if the turnout exceeds 300 people, as enforced by the new mass gathering law.

“She told me, ‘Tell me when you’re coming, and I’ll accept it,'” Ginter said. “What can I do to enforce this legally?”

Bant confirmed this morning she spoke with Ginter about the issue. Bant said she will work to keep the festival within the confines of the mass gathering law.

The law requires residents who want to host an event with 300 or more people to get a permit from the Town Board and notify the town 45 days in advance.

Bant said she would not try to get a permit.

Bant said the town has been trying to stop the festival for years.

“I plan on doing the absolute right thing,” she said. “I’m going to make sure I don’t have more than 300 people out back. I will make sure the music is shut down at a certain time. I’ll make sure we have ample parking, ample water and ample porta potties. Everything we’ve done in the past, we’ll continue to do.”

Ginter expressed concern about determining how many people are actually at the event.

Councilman William Gritsavage said Wednesday the board members have to contact Bant and prevent the event from happening.

“I think we send her a letter and tell her if she continues to proceed, she’ll get a court order [telling her to stop],” Gritsavage said. “That’s the only way we can sink our teeth into it.”

Still, Ginter was worried that Bant is going to go through with the festival regardless of what actions the town takes.

“If you flood the sheriff’s office with calls, that could make a difference,” he said. “I suspect [the ranch is] going to push to see how far they can push. You need to get started soon.”

Aside from the music, Bant isn’t exactly sure why some town residents oppose the event so much.

She said she understands there were a couple of arrests two years ago on two people who had warrants out for their arrest, but it would be impossible to check who has arrest warrants and who doesn’t

She said there are a lot of people who want the festival to continue.

“There are a handful of people who don’t want it, but the majority of people don’t have a problem with the music festival.”