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Chester County Press

East Marlborough supervisors hear proposal for superstar country concert

10/03/2017 09:35AM ● By J. Chambless

By John Chambless
Staff Writer

On Oct. 2, the East Marlborough Township Board of Supervisors heard from representatives of a concert company who would like to bring country music superstars to the Willowdale Steeplechase grounds in August. The supervisors, however, have some reservations about the proposed three-day event.

The Country Spirit USA Music Festival, as envisioned by Alan Jacoby and Impact Entertainment, would book stars on the caliber of Tim McGraw and Faith Hill, Toby Keith and Brad Paisley, with two stages of entertainment set up in the natural ampitheater of the Willowdale Steeplechase grounds from Aug. 24 to 26, 2018. The company, which has run a similar country music festival in California for years, has the endorsement of the Chester County Visitors Bureau. Susan Hamley, executive director of the bureau, told the supervisors that the event would showcase the county's open space and attractions to a new audience of thousands of people “and would put us on the map even more” as a destination.

Jacoby said his company has been putting on large-scale events for more than 30 years, and said that the Willowdale property has many benefits, including access to Route 926 and Route 82, an ideal sloping hillside for seating, and a buffer of trees and ground to keep sound from spreading too far to nearby homes.

“We plan to spend about $2 million for the acts” Jacoby said, and he expects between 10,000 and 15,000 people per day. The music would run from 2 to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and from noon to 9 p.m. Sunday.

Dixon Stroud, who owns the Willowdale property, said, “It costs a lot of money to keep open space, and this will help us pay for it.”

While company representatives have a firm security plan and plenty of experience in planning successful events of this size, the supervisors had concerns.

Richard Hannum, chairman of the supervisors, said, “I'm concerned that you're proposing three days of loud noise at night, near a residential area. … The hardest part to get my arms around is the traffic, and the effect it will have on nearby neighborhoods. I'm sure that you put on great events, but does this fit into East Marlborough Township? I'm not sure I have my mind made up about that yet.”

Jacoby said, “We're close to meeting all your requirements. We will do all we can to not be a nuisance. We want to come back in 2019.”

Jacoby said the company has been studying locations for the festival for two years, and that he came to the Willowdale Steeplechase equestrian event this year to study traffic flow and ask police if there were any problems associated with parking and getting people in and out of the site. The company would hire local police and local companies to help put the show together and make sure it runs smoothly, he said, adding, “This will be a very high-quality show.”

Supervisors John Sarro said noise was a concern for him as well. “A lot of people don't want to hear this,” he told the concert organizers.

One nearby resident said that although she didn't really like country music, “I'm fine with this event. I think it would be great for the area,” she said.

Supervisor Bob Weer said that, with set-up and tear-down, the township was looking at a five-day disruption for the concert. “Looking around at the other board members, I don't think there's support for this,” he said.

Jacoby said that due to deadlines for booking acts for the proposed festival, a quick decision from the board would be appreciated. Hannum and the supervisors agreed to study the issue further and to announce their decision on Oct. 9 during a special meeting.

Earlier in the meeting, an organizer of the upcoming Mushroom Cap Half-Marathon asked the board for permission to serve two-ounce samples of beer for those running in the Nov. 4 event. Sarah Nurry said that there are sponsors for each mile of the event, and that Kennett Brewing Company had asked if they could distribute small samples of beer at mile marker 6.5, which is at Wollaston Road and Route 926 in East Marlborough Township. There are no runners under 21 registered for the event, she said, adding that strict ID rules would apply for those consuming beer.

Weer said he was concerned about township liability since the alcohol would be served at a location in the township. “I have a problem with this,” he said, suggesting that “you take your run to Kennett” instead of extending the route into East Marlborough.

Nurry said that beer samples had not been advertised for the event, and that she was merely asking on behalf of the brewery. “You run a great event,” Hannum told Nurry, “but I'm not tremendously in favor of serving beer at Route 926.”

The board unanimously voted down the request.

There was a prolonged debate about a proposed 150-unit community to be built on Schoolhouse Road. Attorney John Jaros presented the preliminary plan for the Longwood Preserve community, which incorporated changes requested by the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors. The developers and the board deadlocked on adding a connecting road to a property that is nearby, but so far undeveloped. The township would like to connect the two proposed communities, but developers for Longwood Preserve objected to “cramming in” the road, which would stop at the boundary of the nearby property.

Several neighbors objected to the sight lines for traffic on Schoolhouse Road, and questioned the placement of a sidewalk that would stop at the edge of the road, where pedestrians would likely have to cross the road to go to the nearby Walmart store.

Jaros countered objections from several supervisors, saying the plan he was submitting met all the conditions requested by the supervisors. “We need to move forward with this,” he said of the development, which has been in the works since 2015.

Ultimately, the board agreed to approve the preliminary plan, with stipulations that the sidewalk along the boulevard entrance to the development be moved to the south side of the access road, and securing a promise to try to add the connector road.

“We will use our best efforts to try to accommodate a connector road,” Jaros said, adding that details can be worked out before the final plan is submitted for approval. “We are asking you to have a little faith with the developers,” he told the board.

To contact Staff Writer John Chambless, email [email protected].