With less than a month until it is scheduled to begin, Woodstock 50 is spiraling deeper into doubt as the drama and controversy that have surrounded the festival for months continue to escalate.
The town of Vernon, New York, on Monday rejected for the fourth time in two weeks an application — with a safety plan deemed "worthless" by one official — submitted by organizers in hopes of staging a 50th anniversary Woodstock concert Aug. 16-18 at Vernon Downs, west of Utica.
Safety and capacity — two issues that dogged the historic Woodstock festival in 1969 — figure prominently in the denial letter issued by Town of Vernon Code Enforcement Officer Reay Walker in response to the most recent application submitted July 17.
The "Woodstock 50 Safety Plan" included a "Confidentiality Statement," which Walker wrote "invalidates the entire plan."
In the statement, organizers do not "make any warranty as to the absolute accuracy or completeness of the information contained."
Walker wrote, "This disclaimer of responsibility makes the plan worthless," as "The purpose of a Public Safety Plan, insofar as submitted to the Town Code Office, is to make a representation to the permitting authority that the Public Safety Plan will be followed and that its estimates are accurate."
Walker wrote that details are lacking when it comes to preventing people without tickets from entering the venue, with questions remaining regarding how a perimeter fence would be constructed; and information is unclear on where the estimated crowd of 65,000 would go once the festival ends each night.
"Implicit in this application is that those forced to leave Vernon Downs at 11:00 at night will be forced to sleep in their cars or any lawn or sidewalk that seems unguarded."
A spokesperson for Woodstock 50 declined comment.
Monday's denial placed deeper into doubt the likelihood that organizers will be able to stage the festival to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Woodstock Music and Art Fair.
Organizers have no venue, no permit and tickets have yet to go on sale for the event. Dozens of acts, including Jay-Z, Miley Cyrus, the Lumineers and Santana, are scheduled to perform.
Vernon Downs is Woodstock 50's second proposed venue. It had to abandon plans to hold the event at Watkins Glen International raceway due to similar permitting problems.
Woodstock 50 was announced in January and the lineup was released with great fanfare in March.
But turmoil, legal battles and questions regarding safety have dogged the undertaking that would mark the golden anniversary of the 1969 Woodstock festival, a defining moment for a generation considered by many to be the crowning achievement of the 1969s counterculture.
Ulster County resident Michael Lang, co-founder and co-producer of the 1969 Woodstock Music and Art Fair, is part of the Woodstock 50 team.
The plans for Woodstock 50 were rejected twice previously for being incomplete and submitted too late. An appeal of that decision was also rejected. Throughout, the town has requested more detail to its safety, traffic and parking plans.
Myriad inconsistencies in application
Walker on Monday also wrote in his denial letter that:
► The confidentiality statement included requires the Town of Vernon to keep the information confidential. But Walker writes that the application is a public document.
► While a schedule for when the venue would open, the festival command center would be available and when performances would begin is included in the application, it says “These times are tentative and are subject to change without notice.” Also, the opening of the box office and credentials office are shown as “TBD,” or “To Be Determined.”
“It is impossible to assess the proper coordination of Woodstock 50 when all of the times in the schedule of events are subject to change without notice,” Walker writes.
► A contact list submitted by Woodstock 50 includes the names of people from Virgin Produced, even though that company on July 16 provided a statement withdrawing as production company.
► The application indicates that the "state Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services … is the lead intra-agency contact for permitting pre-planning," but the application does not include any paperwork from that agency.
► Information from the state Department of Transportation “leads this office to conclude that the proposed events will result in catastrophic traffic jams … which will, in effect, confine local residents to their homes, or to within walking distance of their homes for the better part of 72 hours.”
► The pre-planning statement says the state police and Oneida County Sheriff’s Office are involved, even though Oneida County Sheriff Robert Maciol has blasted organizers for poor planning and insisted that the event cannot be held safely.
And according to Walker, the plan gives no indication that the state police have agreed to provide support for Woodstock 50.
This article originally appeared on Poughkeepsie Journal: Woodstock 50 denied, leaving the August festival unlikely