Guilderland music fest leads to mass-gathering process review

— From Google Maps

The red marker shows the location of the High Altitude music festival, scheduled to take place the weekend of Sept. 29 in Guilderland. 

GUILDERLAND — Some residents of the Depot Road area in Guilderland were surprised to learn that a music festival was being held nearby on a cattle farm on the last weekend in June this year, and surprised all over again to learn that a second festival will be held at the end of this month. 

Those who reached out to The Enterprise to find out what, exactly, might be going on expressed more bemusement than anger that such a large event had somehow escaped their notice until it was happening in their otherwise quiet part of town. 

Dubbed High Altitude, the festival was first held the weekend of June 30, and featured camping, food, vendors, and a bonfire, while advertising itself as pot and ATV-friendly. A second iteration is scheduled to run from Sept. 29 to Oct. 1

The address listed on promotional material is 5777 Depot Road in Voorheesville; that’s where there’s an access road that leads to the actual property, 400 Gipps Lane, which is just south of the Northeastern Industrial Park. 

Both gatherings were authorized by the town through the mass-gathering permit process, which is why nearby residents were not alerted to the events, The Enterprise learned from Supervisor Peter Barber this week. He said that the town’s zoning department is awaiting advice from legal counsel on whether similar events at the same property should require a special-use permit in the future. 

To get a mass gathering permit, Barber explained in an email, the town gets approval from local police and medical departments, among others, and then sends staff out to “review site conditions, and operational conditions, like onsite ambulance, wastewater, water, etc.” 

“Once I have signed approvals and conditions by Department heads, I ask any questions and determine whether to grant the permit,” Barber said.

The latest permit required porta-johns, a handwashing station, potable water, a security team, a 16-foot fire lane, music to end at 10 p.m., a secured parking area, marked land boundaries, and that no alcohol be sold on-site. 

Guilderland’s Chief Building and Zoning Inspector Jacqueline Coons told The Enterprise on Sept. 22 that the department had not yet received advice from the town’s attorney, but that, once it does, “our staff will follow the direction received.”

Festival organizer Matthew Burke, of Higher Grounds Holdings, which appears to host other weed-themed events in Amsterdam, New York, could not be reached for more information on how the festivals came to be or his plans for future events. 

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