Maggie Dooling’s three-day music festival wasn’t poorly planned, it was poorly understood, she told Richmond County Supervisors during a presentation that began with her letting them know that the allotted “10 minutes is not going to cut it.”
I’m pretty well-winded, so I’ll try” she said.
Dooling was before the board of supervisors seeking a festival permit for a three-day event on her property in Sharps. In May, the request was denied, but Dooling wasn’t there to state her case.
Application and denial
On May 6, Dooling submitted an application to get a festival permit for The Sharps Session, 22.0, which was set for June 24 – 26.
The county ordinance says applications “shall be made” at least 30 days before the event and 21 days before the board of supervisors meeting.
However, Dooling’s festival was added to the agenda and considered at the May 12 meeting, only six days after it was submitted.
Despite the short notice, numerous Sharps residents became aware of the addition and turned out to express their opposition. The sheriff and chief of EMS went on record as being opposed, and ultimately all five supervisors voted against issuing the permit. During the discussions, a range of concerns was raised, from safety to traffic, and a number of people described the event as poorly planned.
Later that day, after the board meeting, Dooling said she saw the board’s vice chairman, Richard Thomas, at Thomas Store. He told her that she was “missed” at the meeting earlier, she wrote in a letter to the county dated May 22.
“I was more than surprised to learn that my application was item #11 on the agenda despite the stated requirement that applications be submitted 21 days prior to the board meeting,” that letter stated.
In that letter, Dooling requested that her application be returned to the June 9th agenda “…as would be entitled to any person applying for a permit under the regulations….” She requested due process and the chance to have a voice in the matter. She also requested “at least a modicum of respect not previously demonstrated by county leaders and their endorsement of libel.”
Dooling described the situation at the May 12 board meeting as an “inflammatory diatribe from a room full of everyone, except for me, the applicant.” Dooling said she “was NOT invited to attend that meeting,” and she described herself as “a disenfranchised person” and as being “slandered and silenced.” She made these statements in an email to Northern Neck News demanding “an immediate retraction” of the article about her festival permit being denied.
“Per guidance from the county attorney,” Dooling’s festival application was put back on the agenda at this month’s meeting, county administrator Morgan Quicke explained to the supervisors last week. He also clarified that Dooling’s application was added to the agenda in May “in an effort to expediate this process for the applicant.”
Quicke said the comments from the previous month’s meeting would be applied to this month’s consideration. Adding to them, numerous people from Sharps showed up again and expressed opposition.
Dooling’s application stated there could be up to 500 guests, and there would be over a dozen performers and at least three vendors.
For Sharps resident Mike Steele, the main concern was “the traffic hazard and threat to public safety.” He believed the volume of vehicles would be excessive for Sharps Rd. especially given that Amish buggies use it. He noted that, if needed, police and EMS, could have difficulty getting through.
“The facts have not changed. The only thing that’s changed is we’re a month older than we were this time in May,” he said.
“The risks and dangers here are so enormous,” said David Hunter. “It reminds you of Woodstock.” He raised questions about “the alcohol, tobacco and firearms thing.” He pointed to recent violent events in the news and raised questions about fentanyl and drugs. Interstate 95 is the top drug trafficking corridor in Northern America, he claimed, and “it’s a quick turn off of I-95 to get over to have a throwdown over here…in the village of Sharps this is a particularly bad idea,” he said.
Rusty Acree, who claimed to be speaking on behalf of numerous other Sharps residents, said he was “steadfast in opposition.” He said he was “fearful” and raised concerns about noise, safety, traffic, sanitation and litter. In the November race for governor, “the winner was the candidate who listened to constituents…I think all of you should take a note of when politicians don’t listen to the constituents,” he told the board of supervisors.
Dooling said she’s lived in Sharps for 22 years, and with a partner, she’s trying to develop an event venue on her property. A three-day music festival would be only one element of the business and such events would only happen maybe once or twice a year. That’s “not the crux of the business.”
She said the ideas that they are “unsavory characters” who are trucking in drugs and guns is “1000% not the case.”
With regard to concerns about narcotics, “They’re not coming to my house. I wouldn’t allow it.” Dooling said she is an RN and her business partner is a state employee, and they don’t do drugs and found it offensive that it was being associated with them.
Addressing concerns about the traffic, she said due to negative press, less people were going to attend so the traffic impact would be reduced. And those attending would be “trickling in” over the weekend so everyone would not be coming in at once.
She said they have published house rules on the website and her property barring many of the actions her neighbors raised concerns about, and it showed how “really mindful” she was while planning this. She said she wasn’t selling any alcohol so didn’t need an ABC license, but the brewery that would be serving alcohol has a license. However, they weren’t planning to do an exchange for money. They would take tickets.
One of the major concerns in May was that Dooling wanted the ability to vet the presence of local authorities to come onto her property. She said she wasn’t blocking them or hiding anything but didn’t want moving vehicles in the event area near her guests.
“I want don’t police and ambulances to come flooding onto the property without my knowledge because, again, this is my concern for safety. I had a near miss with a deputy not long ago where I almost got struck by the car.” He came onto my property at a high rate of speed, and it was a close call, she said.
Dooling said they hired a security team and she planned to run security and head medical response. There would be other nurses and medical professionals onsite to offer 24/7 coverage.
In the case of an emergency, “I have the confidence in my own nursing skills that if something very serious happens to a guest, the very first thing I’m going to do is activate EMS as I’ve been trained to.” She said they planned to set up a medical tent, and she bought a wide range of medical equipment, including oxygen monitors and a defibrillator. If she needed authorities, she said she would make the call, notify her entire team, and make way for first responders to have access. It’s unclear what would happen if someone else called 911.
Sharps resident Stan Hume said Dooling had already conducted sound checks and posted the event on Facebook and a website bearing her name. He said she had started promoting the event and accepting reservations, and “This promotion is in direct violation of the county ordinances,” which, as he noted, prohibits promoting or organizing an event before obtaining a festival permit.
“This idea that we were selling tickets prior to approval-- We were very much soft-selling tickets. But I did not expect to be going to a permitted event for this event. I was foolishly thinking I was actually going to be operating as a business approved by the county under Maggie’s Farm Productions with a special exception [permit] and with a campground license… I’m learning, right? I’m a trained nurse, not a trained code reader…”
Dooling said they really don’t even need the permit anymore because publicity basically “killed the show.” But given her investments and commitments she was still pursuing it.
In addition to Dooling pleading the case, her business partner, William Newnum of Mechanicsville, came and explained the event was meant to be a memorial for people they lost as well as a fundraiser for them to start their business. His wife Tricia Newnum expressed admiration for the Sharps area and sought to assure the board that, “We want to add love.”
None of it swayed a single supervisor to support the event. Board chairman Lee Saunders confirmed that Quicke would get Dooling copies of the letters from the neighbors, as she requested. And they unanimously voted against her application again.