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Sunday May 28th, 2017 2:42PM

Despite concerns, July festival approved for South Hall site

By Caleb Hutchins Reporter
  Contact Editor

GAINESVILLE -- After nearly an hour of discussion, a failed denial motion and several new conditions, a music festival has been approved to operate near Road Atlanta in south Hall County this summer.

The Moonshine Arts and Music Festival has been held in Ringgold in northwest Georgia for the last five years, but organizers said they wanted to move the event closer to Atlanta and they presented their plans for a move to the Chestnut Mountain site to the Hall County Commission at its Monday work session.

The festival would be held from Friday, June 30 through Sunday, July 2 and would feature nightly concerts and tent camping areas for attendees to live in during the weekend. Representatives said they expected as many as 5,000 people from as far away as northern states like Wisconsin and Minnesota to attend.

That move was set to be voted on Wednesday evening, however, District One Commissioner Kathy Cooper, whose district the site sits in, said she had several concerns about the proposal.

"I feel like it's really been too fast, and I don't feel like I'd be able to vote on it today in a positive way," Cooper said.

Cooper said she was concerned about safety at the event, since no formal agreement had been reached with the Hall County Sheriff's Office to provide security, although representatives for the festival assured they would reach a deal with some local police force. Cooper also expressed concerns about the noise the concerts would create, citing nearby residents and livestock that could be impacted. She said if any nearby chicken farms are in use, young chickens could be at risk.

"The noise...when you have 'boom boom boom boom boom', you get these little baby chicks and they smother," Cooper said. "I raise chickens. They will all run in there, and there are hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of chickens in there if they're in that timing."

Festival representatives said noise monitors would be placed around the festival to make sure the concerts didn't cause too much impact.

Commissioner Scott Gibbs said he was concerned if the area was suitable for camping, but both festival and Road Atlanta representatives said they would ensure that no overcrowding would occur, saying a limit would be placed on the amount of tents allowed.

Cooper made a motion to deny the request, which was seconded by Commission Chairman Richard Higgins but ultimately rejected by a 3-2 vote with Commissioners Billy Powell, Scott Gibbs and Jeff Stowe voting against. Stowe then made a motion to approve the request with several conditions.

The conditions are that the concert is approved for that weekend, that the music only be allowed on Friday from 6:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m., Saturday from 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. and Sunday from 1:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., that the Hall County Sheriff would have to approve the festival's security plan and copies be given to the county commission, that at least one police officer be there at all times, that enough portable toilets and showers be provided to the campers and that noise levels be under 104 decibels at 100 feet away from the venue.

The commission approved the motion with those conditions 3-2, with Stowe, Gibbs and Powell voting for and Cooper and Higgins voting against. Stowe said he felt the festival wouldn't be too invasive to the community.

"Right now, you could hold a race on Saturday night, with the old-style race cars that aren't muffled and go until midnight," Stowe said. "I don't see there's that big of a difference in what you're doing."

Cooper said despite her concerns she hopes the event succeeds.

"That's not what this is about, I'm for (the applicant). That's my part of the woods and I want good business down there," Cooper said. "I just have that fear that if it goes bad that it will hurt them in the future trying to do other things down there."

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