NORWAY — State and local officials on Friday halted preparation work for the July 4 Nateva Festival at the Oxford Fairgrounds and sent organizers scrambling to ensure the show would go on as planned.
The three-day, multistage event put on by Nateva Festivals Inc. of Newton, Mass., is expected to draw thousands of people to the Oxford Fairgrounds off Route 26 from Friday, July 2, through Sunday, July 4, to hear bands including Further, Jakob Dylan and the Flaming Lips
On Friday, Maine Department of Environmental Protection “suggested” that workers stop clearing an area of the fairgrounds off Pottle Road until organizers get proper permitting, said Scott McGee of McGee Construction, project manager at the site.
The company has been clearing space for the past year for campers who will be staying throughout the weekend on the fairgrounds and for general spectator space.
“We had a little bit of groundwater get away from us,” McGee said Friday. “We've stopped working.”
Norway Building Inspector Jeff Van Decker said McGee Construction allowed storm water to flow into a nearby bog off Pottle Road, across from the entrance to the fairgrounds, without obtaining a storm-water permit.
The lack of a permit is in violation of DEP regulations and a town ordinance that requires the company to go before the Planning Board for a site plan review if earth is going to be moved under certain conditions.
Van Decker said the problem occurred when workers reshaped the property without the storm-water permits. Jeff Kalinich of the DEP, who inspected the violation, was not available Friday to comment on the situation.
“They need to do a little backpedaling,” said Van Decker who has sent a letter to the property owner he has on record — Black Bear Realty of Casco.
Construction company owner Steve McGee said he has hired a wetlands scientist and an engineer to ensure that the work proceeds without any complications.
While the construction company attempts to take care of the environmental issue, festival organizers were also informed Friday that they should have applied for an outdoor festival permit. About 15 acres of the 21-acre site under construction are in Norway. Six acres are in Oxford, according to Van Decker.
Under Norway's 2007 outdoor festival ordinance, organizers of events with 250 or more people must apply for a permit and pay a $100 application fee. Organizers in January obtained a similar permit from Oxford that allows up to 14,999 ticket sales for the event.
“This is all news to me,” Frank Chandler, principal owner of Nateva Festivals, said Friday.
Chandler stressed that Nateva is a “green” company. “We support the protective conveyances of the state. We expect any company (that works for a Nateva Festivals Inc. project) to act and respond in the same way.”
Chandler said that if he had been aware of the need for a permit from Norway he would have applied for it long ago.
Town Manager David Holt said Friday that town officials would try to work with organizers of the festival.
“We certainly intend to work with them to make sure that this gets straightened out. That's the approach we want to take,” Holt said after meeting with Suzanne Grover, president of the Oxford Fair, which is held at the fairgrounds. “We have no intention to shut this project down unless something else appears that we don't know about.”
Holt said organizers are working on a site plan and picked up an application for the mass-gathering permit Friday.
“We're going to try really hard to get it on the agenda for the next meeting,” Holt said. The ordinance requires a public hearing before the selectmen can issue the permit.
Selectmen were informed of the situation Thursday night. “I would be in favor of a cease and desist order,” board Chairman Bruce Cook said when he heard about the problems.
Chandler said he expected everything to be taken care of “quickly and efficiently” and that there was no concern about a delay affecting the concert schedule.