January 5, 2012 —
Having read recent comments and letters regarding the Town of Bethel’s actions toward Yasgur Road productions, it seems important at this time to clarify some misconceptions. To begin with, the Town of Bethel is not interested in engaging in a “witch hunt” of Roy Howard and Jeryl Abramson, or any other property owner. Nor has the town spent taxpayer money toward any “revenge” against them or anyone; and we certainly do not have a “cavalier” attitude about the money that we do spend. The Town of Bethel is simply enforcing its laws. The activities on Yasgur Road have been illegally operating and jeopardizing the safety and tranquility of our town practically every year since the 1990s, and this has to stop.
Several years ago, Roy Howard and Jeryl Abramson were afforded the opportunity, as anyone would be, to apply for and receive a special use permit to operate their events on Yasgur Road. This process allows the town to ensure the health and safety of the community and our guests. They did not follow through on the process, and therefore they did not receive a special use permit. Instead, they continue to consistently and flagrantly violate the laws of the Town of Bethel, with no regard for its cost or consequences.
For example, last year they applied for and received temporary camping permits to allow only limited camping on their property for the Memorial weekend Phish concerts. Then they invited over 5,000 people and parking for over 1,300 cars. They also advertised for vending including falafel, gyros and jewelry and promoted 27 different bands to perform throughout the weekend. Once again, they did this without any proper required permits from the town. These are the facts and cannot be disputed. This one unpermitted event could have been a real catastrophe for all law-abiding neighbors, residents and concert goers.
Prior to 2008, Howard and Abramson signed an agreed upon consent order specifically prohibiting these activities without the proper permits or approvals. They broke the agreement, and their actions put the town at great risk. The board to date has been responsible for $3,100 in legal expenses on this court matter. They now owe a fine of $25,000 dollars, plus any additional legal fees and expenses the town may incur due to their appeal. Had that 2007 consent order not been violated, the town would not be spending this money and the couple would not have incurred this additional fine.
The Town of Bethel welcomes business and economic development. We work very hard, as a board and a community, to encourage and support legitimate business and cultural activities in our town. We cannot allow one property owner to ignore the processes and laws that we have in place to encourage safe, responsible business development and activities. It is not fair to those who have followed the rules and it will not be tolerated. The town board will continue to take appropriate action to uphold our laws and ensure for the health and safety of our community.
(Daniel Sturm is the Town of Bethel Supervisor, and Richard Crumley, Denise Frangipane and Vicky Simpson are councilpersons for the Town of Bethel.]