Esslie-Frenia Law June 2023 Leaderboard

Town holds off on Magic Forest Farm decision


By Melanie Lekocevic

Capital Region Independent Media

The town’s joint planning/zoning board of appeals has not yet made a final decision on a proposed August concert at Magic Forest Farm. File photo

COEYMANS HOLLOW — The town planning/zoning board of appeals declined to make a decision on an August concert and camping event at Magic Forest Farm until the property owner meets certain conditions for approval.

The property’s owner, Joan Mahony, and farm operator Jason Ball had originally planned a series of concerts and camping events at the agritourism farm located at 134 Bucks Ranch Road, with between 250 and 1,000 attendees.

Town Supervisor George McHugh filed an appeal requesting the property owner be required to apply for a use variance rather than a special-use permit for the concert series, claiming the concerts were the focus of the property owner’s application, rather than the camping, which would be permitted. McHugh’s appeal was granted by the board in May.

Ball and Mahony decided to apply for a permit for a temporary campground in order to hold a single concert and weekend camping event Aug. 5-8, and their request was reviewed by the joint planning/zoning board of appeals July 11.

Town attorney Andrew Brick said at the board’s last meeting they requested information from the applicant, including an insurance policy, and required Ball to meet with the police chief, town supervisor and others to determine what needs to be done to ensure the temporary campground and concert is in compliance with town codes.

The board received a memo from Police Chief Marc Tryon confirming Ball had met with McHugh, Tryon, two representatives from the Albany County Sheriff’s Office, police officials and others, Brick said.

“As a result of that meeting, there were a number of recommendations that the group had made to the board to consider requiring to occur prior to considering approval,” Brick said.

Ball was also instructed to contact the Albany County Health Department to find out what the county requires in terms of sanitation and water supply for an event with about 300 people, including about 250 attendees and 50 staff and band members.

“[The health department] provided proof that they did contact them, as directed, but they said they don’t have any jurisdiction because of the size of the event,” Brick told the board. “In effect, that means the Albany County Health Department isn’t going to be reviewing the proposal regarding sanitation or availability of potable water. So I think as part of your analysis, since the county isn’t going to be doing it because they lack jurisdiction, I think you as a board have to investigate what the plans are for sanitation, i.e. porta-potties, as well as the ability to provide potable water to attendees.”

According to health department recommendations, an event of about 300 people would require 14 porta-potties and 3.7 liters of potable water per person per day.

The group of local officials also had other recommendations for the August event, should it be approved.

“The other recommendations from the working group, they fall into two categories,” Brick said. “One is a recommendation that two EMTs (emergency medical technicians) be on site at all times. I think you want to follow that recommendation — those are the experts. And then there are some construction or renovations of the road.”

One of the roads leading onto the property is a private emergency access road owned by Mahony that needs work. Ball agreed he would take care of the road improvements himself. Brick said the town’s highway superintendent, Daniel Baker, would need to approve the road repairs.

“The highway superintendent is going to sign off, so it’s his call,” Brick said.

Board chairman Robert Nolan said one of the biggest sticking points will be the level of sound from the concert and camping activities. Noise was one of the issues raised by local residents who expressed concern about the sound and hours of operation.

“The sticking point will be the sound,” Nolan said. “When Jason (Ball) goes over and unplugs the band sound and a kid in their car turns on their music and it’s vibrating all over the place — we have to specify that. The only thing we want to hear after 11 o’clock is crickets.”

Ball said he had a plan to deal with noise levels from the band, and he would make sure campers comply with the sound requirements.

“One of the ways to stop that is the ‘silent disco’ — there is still a DJ playing, but everyone gets their own headphones so they are still listening to music, but everyone has headphones on,” Ball said.

Ball said it is in his own best interest to ensure the bands and attendees comply with the town’s noise ordinance.

“We realize how much of a sticking point this is and what it means to future events at the farm,” Ball said. “If I am not compliant, I realize I won’t get another permit.”

Brick recommended the board set hours when music will be permitted during the concert weekend.

“I think the board should determine what is an appropriate time for the music to start, what’s an appropriate time for the music to stop, and then the condition about no noise across the property line after that time,” the attorney said. “No noise at all — beeping horns, screaming, laughing, nothing across the property line. It’s a big enough property that theoretically they can control their conversational noise.”

Board member Patricia Grogan asked if hours of operation could be abbreviated on Sunday because other residents in the neighborhood have to go to work, summer school, summer programs and the like on Monday.

Brick said the board can impose reasonable requirements.

The board determined music would be permitted beginning at 10:30 a.m. and running through 11 p.m., with the exception of Sunday, when it would have to stop at 9 p.m. The start and stop times apply to both music and noise levels.

Brick said he would draft a list of conditions for the Aug. 5-8 event by the board’s next meeting July 27, and then the board would make a decision. In the interim, Brick directed Ball to meet with the EMTs and the highway superintendent to finalize plans with regard to safety precautions and improvements to the emergency access road.

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