County Maintains Water-Based Festival Not Permitted, But Organizer Still Planning Event

County Maintains Water-Based Festival Not Permitted, But Organizer Still Planning Event
County Maintains

BERLIN – County officials say the Boaters Aid Music Festival planned for Fourth of July weekend will not be taking place following the organizer’s failure to receive approval from Worcester County.

Although organizer Allen Barzak received a permit from Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for the three-day festival planned for the Isle of Wight Bay, he did not get the needed permits from Worcester County.

“These are not just bureaucratic regulations,” said Bob Mitchell, the county’s head of environmental programs. “These are rules designed to protect the public.”

Ed Tudor, director of development review and permitting for Worcester County, said Barzak would have needed a zoning permit as well as approval from the Worcester County Health Department.

“He does not have any local approvals,” Tudor said.

When contacted Wednesday afternoon, Barzak said he would comment after speaking with his attorney. He did, however, indicate he still planned to hold the event.

“According to state laws, I do not have to have a permit to hold an event on the water if it is three hours so we are still allowed to have an event each one of the days we have listed,” he said. “This is a Maryland law so I have done my research.”
Tudor said a number of county officials as well as representatives from Maryland’s State Highway Administration met with organizers of the Boaters Aid Music Festival June 17. The county was notified of the festival, which was set to take place July 3-5, by DNR after that agency gave Barzak approval for the event late last month.

“We were notified by DNR when they issued the permit,” Tudor said. “We immediately contacted him and said you need to come in and talk to us.”

During the June 17 meeting, county officials told Barzak about the approvals he would need. With the festival dates in roughly two weeks, Tudor said there was not enough time for Barzak to get the required permit from the county’s board of zoning appeals, which only meets once a month.

Tudor said such a permit would be necessary for the event because the county’s zoning ordinance extends into area waters and whatever is not expressly permitted in the code needs a variance.

According to the Worcester County Health Department, in order to host his event, Barzak would need an outdoor music festival permit from the health department.

“The applicant would need to demonstrate compliance with the requirements for the issuance of a health permit for an outdoor music festival,” Health Officer Debbie Goeller said. “These regulations include requirements for toilet/sewage disposal, water supply and an approved emergency medical plan.”

Just last week, Barzak told The Dispatch the Boaters Aid Music Festival would bring nationally known acts such as Jo Dee Messina, Heart by Heart and The Guess Who to the Ocean City area. Barzak said he had spent a year and a half planning the event, which was to benefit St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. He said he expected 1,200 boats and as many as 10,000 people to attend the event, which would be centered around a barge in the Isle of Wight Bay.

Mitchell said the event Barzak had proposed could potentially be held in Worcester County if it was planned and permitted properly but would be better as a land-based festival.

“It’s a novel idea but more akin to lakes and ponds than an estuary,” he said.

Mitchell said the fact that Barzak’s festival required a marine gathering permit from DNR was proof of its potential impact.

“It’s not four people stopping at an island for a picnic,” he said. “A gathering permit means the marine police need to assign assets. That triggers other agencies to bring their perspectives to bear.”