NORWAY — A 15-acre hillside at the Oxford Fairgrounds slated for camping during the three-day Nateva Festival in July will not be used because the site has been cleared and excavated to the point of becoming unstable — "a muddy mess," Planning Board Chairman Dennis Gray said Tuesday.
“It's an ecological disaster waiting to happen,” Gray said. The land was being cleared to use as a campground for some of the 14,000 concert-goers expected to descend on the Oxford Hills next month for the Nateva Festival and for future festival and event use.
Gray said he believes the site work has created a safety issue to anyone using the hill and an environmental issue for the area. The main issue is erosion from silt is washing away.
The issue surfaced last month when abutters to the fairgrounds, on Route 26 and Pottle Street in Oxford and Norway, saw a nearby pond filling with silt from site work at the fairgrounds. About 15 acres of the 21-acre site under construction is in Norway. Another 6 acres are in Oxford, according to Norway Building Inspector Jeff Van Decker.
Scott McGee, project manager for the site job, confirmed at the time that the Maine Department of Environmental Protection “suggested” that workers from McGee Contracting of West Gardner stop clearing ground until they received the proper storm-water permitting. 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.
McGee told the Sun Journal at the time, "We had a little groundwater get away from us.”
Permits were applied for, but when Planning Board members went on a tour of the site late last week, they found evidence that the site work had gone too far, Gray said.
Van Decker said he believes the landowners had continued to work on the site after being told they needed to get state and local permits, but were doing so to try to stabilize the runoff problem.
Gray said the Planning Board went on the site review as part of a review process required for permitting to do the type of work being done at the fairgrounds. The work had already been started without proper permitting.
“We had no idea,” Gray said of the impact the construction had taken on the hillside.
He said the board would not continue the review for a permit until they see a stabilization plan.
Van Decker said fairgrounds co-owner Rupert Grover has told the Planning Board that the site would be fenced off and not used for this festival.
Grover, who initially claimed not to be involved in the issue when asked by the Sun Journal to comment Tuesday, said, “I'd rather not say anything at the moment.”
Van Decker said the town is not planning to fine the fairgrounds owners for the violations, but the DEP may. DEP official Jeff Kalinich, who is working on the Oxford Fairgrounds issue with Van Decker, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.