Hampden denies KahBang permission to set up campsite during festival

Posted June 05, 2012, at 12:42 p.m.
The crowd moves and grooves to the Minneapolis-based hip-hop group Atmosphere during their performance at the KahBangor Festival in 2011.
The crowd moves and grooves to the Minneapolis-based hip-hop group Atmosphere during their performance at the KahBangor Festival in 2011. Buy Photo

HAMPDEN, Maine — The Hampden Town Council has denied permission to KahBang organizers to set up a campsite in town this summer during the annual music, art and film festival in Bangor.

The proposal was for KahBang to pay the town $5,000 to locate a campsite for festival attendees from out of town at the Hampden Business Park for four days in August, but councilors voted against the deal 3-2.

Tim Lo, KahBang’s executive director, said the group would continue looking for a suitable site.

“I’ll make my plea now: If anyone has a plot of land, let us know because it’s been a rainy spring,” Lo said. “We’re going back to the drawing boards. We’ve been a pretty innovative and stubborn group, so we’ll take a no and keep going on to find a solution.”

The proposal, which was revamped after two of the eight businesses located at the business park voiced concerns about noise, traffic and security, called for setting up a 762,500-square-foot campsite Aug. 9-12 that would allow for about 470 individual sites. The total area would have accommodated 35 portable toilets, a portable shower trailer, Dumpsters and a maximum of 1,900 people and 450 vehicles.

The four-year-old festival had its first permitted site last year in Hermon, in the field on private land behind The Sports Arena on Outer Hammond Street, but soggy and muddy conditions created some problems for the 350 campers.

“We went in with full intent to use that site again, but it’s pretty flooded with all this rain and we had water problems last year, so we’re hoping to find a better location,” Lo said.

Despite assurances that there would be no traffic disruptions in Hampden — thanks to a check-in procedure using two checkpoints and a couple of access roads — or security problems because security personnel would be on duty 24 hours a day, at least one business owner and some councilors expressed concerns at Monday night’s meeting.

Lo and Josh Gass, KahBang’s creative director, answered many questions about the plan as a few residents voiced opposition. KahBang’s organizers pointed out that both Hampden’s police chief and Maine Department of Transportation officials in Bangor saw no problems with the plan, and that any additional costs to the town and its emergency services would be reimbursed. They also presented evidence that sound would not be an issue.

“We would have no access points blocked and the road would be clear,” Gass said. “We’ve added secondary holding areas for 20 to 30 vehicles to keep them coming in even during peak flow and from blocking the road. We’ll also build a temporary access road.”

Lo also said that Hermon police told Hampden Police Chief Joe Rogers that there were few complaints about last year’s campsite.

Councilor and Mayor Janet Hughes asked Dr. Barbara Farren, owner of Hampden Veterinary Clinic on Commerce Court, if she could support KahBang’s proposal if all her concerns were addressed.

“My answer is no,” Farren said simply.

Councilor Kristen Hornbrook joined in the majority, which also included Andre Cushing and Hughes,

“I don’t feel this is an appropriate use of a business park,” Hornbrook said.

Councilors Jean Lawlis and Thomas Brann disagreed, saying they were impressed by how complete the camp proposal was and how organizers had revised it to address the concerns of business park tenants.

“I don’t see why we wouldn’t want to be hospitable toward a group of young people who may never have been to Maine before,” Lawlis said. “This helps give them a chance to experience the area, and who knows, they may want to come back and visit, or even live or go to school here.”

Hughes said that if two businesses were against it, she should vote against it.

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