By Melanie Lekocevic
Capital Region Independent Media
COEYMANS HOLLOW — A proposed series of concert festivals and camping is being considered for Magic Forest Farm.
With the first of five concert weekends scheduled for mid-June, the organizers have yet to receive permission from the town’s joint planning/zoning board of appeals.
The series would involve five concert weekends from June through October of this year, with the number of attendees ranging from 250 to 1,000.
Magic Forest Farm, located at 134 Bucks Ranch Road in Coeymans Hollow, is billed on its website as an agritourism destination that is both a sustainable farm and rents out space for camping and events, such as music festivals.
Event promoter Spencer Lavoie from 4Life Entertainment presented the plans for the five concert and camping weekends at a public hearing at the town/zoning board of appeals meeting April 27.
Lavoie said the five festival weekends in 2022 would include June 16-19, with about 250 attendees; July 21-24, with 1,000 attendees; Aug. 5-6, with 250 visitors; Sept. 9-10, with an expected 250 concertgoers; and Oct. 7-9, with approximately 1,000 guests.
Nearly all of the concertgoers will camp at the site for the weekend, with some of the staff and musicians renting nearby lodging, Lavoie said.
“We understand there was some conjecture brought up surrounding the kinds of issues that could be faced by the community, whether it be boundary issues, egress, ingress, whether it be medical, whether it be availability of water and bathrooms,” Lavoie said. “These are all standard things that communities must think about when events are coming in that may not be from the area.”
Lavoie, who said he has worked with performers including the Grateful Dead and Sean “Diddy” Combs, said he wants to collaborate with the community.
“Our concern is not necessarily for the sake of basic economic gain for the promoter, it is really to build community,” he said. “That might sound cliché to folks, but the fact of the matter is these events are very large investments — they fill up hotels, they fill up gas station lines, and they really create an awareness of the area, which to me is most important.”
Several residents said at the meeting they were concerned about traffic with large-scale events in the community. Lavoie said plans are in place to regulate traffic impacts.
“There is a very set schedule surrounding when folks arrive, when they leave,” he said. “We create large windows of arrival, we create large windows of departure — it’s a great way to not make large traffic. I heard in the last meeting there were concerns about potential large influxes of people.”
He said last year he promoted a music festival in North Hampton, Massachusetts, with 24,000 attendees and was able to coordinate the event without substantial problems. The Coeymans Hollow events would not be on a scale of that magnitude, he noted.
Neighbors of Magic Forest Farm have also expressed concerns about noise levels.
Resident Allan Defazio, who lives on Copeland Hill Road, said he moved to the area for its peaceful serenity and open space.
“My concern would be how big is this going to be — we don’t want a Woodstock, I don’t want big venues,” he said. “My wife was concerned with it not stopping at 12 [p.m.] and going on until 5 in the morning, and in fact starting right up again at 7, and then there goes your weekend.”
Defazio also expressed concern about campers and concertgoers leaving the property and wandering onto neighboring properties, as well as how waste and water supply would be handled.
Lavoie said there are plans in place to keep visitors confined to the Magic Forest Farm property and to reduce noise levels perceptible to neighboring properties, as well as security and medical protocols in the event of an emergency.
“We are not just a small crew trying to do this,” the promoter said. “We have millions and millions of dollars’ worth of production equipment and we really come to areas for the sake of growth. These are not just parties — these are well-run, well-orchestrated concerts focused on community.”
The proposal was sent to the Albany County Planning Board, which returned recommendations with regard to a traffic control plan and an emergency evacuation plan, including a medevac helicopter landing zone should the need arise.
Lavoie said he has “attended to those issues,” and said they are working on a traffic plan for each event, including how parking, ingress and egress would be handled.
A planning board member noted that tickets were already being sold for the June festival even though the town has not yet approved the proposal.
“Tickets are currently on sale,” Lavoie responded. “We really enjoy this area and really believe in Magic Forest Farm and Coeymans Hollow, and we are really trying to build something with the local region as well as a bit of a lack of full understanding of what it takes within Coeymans Hollow to create an event and do something like this. It isn’t as if we were trying to sell tickets and hope it went through — I think there was just some confusion on the venue’s part, which we are trying to rectify to get things moving in a positive direction.”
Town Supervisor George McHugh filed an appeal charging that the festival series would require a use variance — which has different criteria — rather than a special-use permit. He said the latter would apply to a campground, but the focus of the public hearing was on concerts.
“[The planning board] will have to make a decision if this is primarily a concert event, and then camping secondarily, or is this camping primarily, and then a concert secondarily?” McHugh asked. “I heard a lot of talk about concerts tonight — I didn’t hear much about camping.”
He also recommended that with crowds upwards of 1,000 people expected, the proposal be sent to Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple for review with regard to potential emergency response.
“If there is an emergency event there, more than likely it will be the sheriff who is there first, given that they control that area more than our Coeymans Police do,” McHugh said. “Number two, they run the paramedics, and they are usually first on the scene before anyone else.”
He also suggested a professional traffic study should be conducted by an outside agency before the project is approved. He cited a site plan currently under review at the industrial park that will bring an additional 160 employees to the park and is located on a state thoroughfare — state Route 144 — and they are required to do a traffic study.
“With this, we are talking about a thousand or more people, on a town road — Bucks Ranch Road. This is not state Route 144 or 143 we are talking about,” McHugh said. “With that many vehicles, you need to, I think, have the applicants produce a professional engineered traffic study for that many vehicles, prospectively. You should also insist on your engineer to review that traffic study and make recommendations to you because if there is an emergency and vehicles can’t get up there and somebody dies, it’s on us. It’s on you. You are the approving authority if this goes forward, so you need to do your due diligence and insist on some of these things being done.”
The public hearing was adjourned until May 25. At the next meeting of the planning/zoning board of appeals on May 9, the board is expected to consider the appeal filed by McHugh with regard to whether the project warrants a special use permit or a use variance.