Lawsuit may silence music festival in Northampton

NORTHAMPTON – A lawsuit has been filed by the town against a woman who wants to host a music festival at her local horse ranch and rescue.

The lawsuit, filed by Leah Everhart of Miller, Mannix, Schachner & Hafner in Fulton County, has the town seeking an order from the court to prevent further advertising, promoting and selling of tickets for the Mama Strawberry Jam after a town law was filed in October that requires a permit for special events.

Everhart said this morning a judge will decide today if a preliminary injunction will be approved. The injunction would prevent Deborah Bant – the owner of the ranch – from holding the festival while the issue is being discussed in court, Everhart said.

The Special Event Permitting Law – adopted in October and filed with the state in November – came about after residents and officials expressed concerns about possible noise and disruption from the music festival scheduled at Solid Rock Horse Rescue on Maple Grove Road, just north of Northville. The location has hosted music festivals before.

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.

The Mama Strawberry Jam, set to run from Thursday to Sunday, would violate this law, according to the lawsuit.

In the first cause of the action, the lawsuit says the zoning for the property would not allow a festival to be held.

“None of these uses is defined as permitted the multiple-day music festival [Bant] plans to host…” The lawsuit said.

With this, the town claims it has the authority to enforce the zoning use of the land.

In the second cause of action, the lawsuit cites the fact that no permit has been filed for the special event, saying it would be in violation of the Special Event Permitting law to hold it without the town’s permission.

According to Town Supervisor Linda Kemper, the board had voted to go forward with a lawsuit. Kemper said other options have been available to the board, such as choosing not to enforce the law or to assign a permit to Bant. Kemper said the board decided to go forward with a lawsuit.

“It is going to cost the taxpayers’ money,” Kemper said.

Bant said she was confused about the situation.

“To me, I am not understanding the big issue,” she said.

Bant said the paperwork she received with the lawsuit cited health, traffic and safety issues with holding the event. She questioned the validity of those reasons, and said thousands of people come yearly to the villagewide garage sale.

Bant also said she could not understand why her place would be marked as residential, thus prohibiting her from holding any event on her property.

“I am not understanding how they can zone my 54-acre property as residential when, since 1998, I’ve [had] a horse ranch,” Bant said.