An Orangeburg County resident is asking officials to take a closer look at the people planning to open a 218-acre outdoor concert venue near Bowman.
Pamela McArthur said the people planning to open Yonder Field have also operated and managed a four-day musical and festival event called Bonnaroo in Manchester, Tenn.
"I urge you to reach out to our county sheriff, EMS and EMD directors so to better understand how this will impact their departments," McArthur said. "I urge you to consider putting this outdoor concert venue on hold until more can be done to prepare and best address this project."
Folly Beach-based Yonder Field has already started construction on the venue on Log Cabin Road, which is off of Homestead Road. The venue will host concerts, shows and festivals complete with multiple temporary stages.
Yonder Field is expected to open in May 2017, with the season running until October.
The plans fit with the existing zoning on the property, so the organizers don’t need Orangeburg County Council to approve changes. But the organizers are hoping to have Log Cabin Road closed to traffic.
Yonder Field President and General Manager Stacie Darr White said a comparison to Bonnaroo is not fair as the venues will be different.
She said her goal “is just to maintain the land and to maintain the respect for the outlying community and for the agriculture community.
"When you start doing something on the scale of a Coachella or a Bonnaroo, when you start talking about 80,000 people to 100,000 people, the impact may outweigh the benefits."
The company is planning an estimated 10 to 15 concerts at Yonder Field a year. An estimated 20,000 to 30,000 people are expected to attend the concerts.
"We want to maintain a strong, positive relationship with our local community," White said. "We want to do everything in just the right way."
McArthur told council Coffee County, Tenn. officials told her that during the first few years of the concert, “traffic was backed up for 72 hours on the interstate, which resulted in interstate commerce being impacted as well as cars running out of gas and being abandoned."
McArthur said six state troopers and 46 deputies had to manage the traffic.
"Now it takes 24 to 26 hours to clear the traffic and it is now 15 years later," McArthur said. She said, "The Tennessee Department of Transportation has constructed a temporary exit that is used only on the week of Bonnaroo for traffic."
McArthur said she was told Bonnaroo “is not worth the revenue it generates because of the increase of drug searches, drugs found and court dates from drug offenses.”
The Yonder Field organizers project it will have an economic impact of $40 million to $50 million annually.
McArthur said there are also medical issues.
"They have seen heat-related injuries, drug incidents and when it rained and was muddy, lots of ankle injuries," she said.
She cited information from Bonnaroo's website, noting that the festival organizers note their policy is “no questions asked.”
"Well is that nice if you are a drug user," McArthur said, noting that Bonnaroo promises it is a “safe haven” for attendees and instructs attendees on how to have safe sex.
"I am not sure this is what I want in my backyard," she said.
"Thirty thousand people who may not have the same morals they have, may not have the same respect for law enforcement they have," McArthur continued. "I don't think this is what Orangeburg County needs to promote. The last thing we need is more drug activity in our county, much less in a rural area when they realize we have a lack of law enforcement presence."
Homestead Road resident Jimmy Padgett said the concerts will interfere with his way of life.
"The 1,500 feet they are talking about, the 2,500 feet they are talking about is a farce," Padgett said. "It is not but about 900 to 1,000 feet from our back doors. That is a fact. I am not standing up here lying. I am telling you what is the truth. It is not in your backyard it is in my backyard."
Padgett said he can hear people doing construction at the site right now and talking.
"And I am not going to hear the concert in my yard?" Padgett said.
"We need to sit down collectively and ask ourselves is this really going to be benefit Orangeburg County? Do you want your kids going to this concert?" he said.
Janice Wiles, who lives also on Homestead Road, said, “We are not just a bunch of little country hick people up here belly-aching.”
"This is touching us deep in our souls," Wiles said. "These are our lives and our homes that we feel are being invaded by something we did not want as taxpayers and property owners and citizens of Orangeburg County. We ask that you stand with us ... because we are fighting a fight we have never fought before."
Orangeburg County Chamber of Commerce President Melinda Jackson offered her support to the venue.
"We feel like the role of the chamber is to support quality of life and economic development we believe this project does fall within the scope of that," Jackson said
"On behalf of the Chamber of Commerce, our board of directors and leadership, we do support the efforts to bring this opportunity to Orangeburg County," she said. "We do support the efforts to promote the growth of Orangeburg County and we do feel it will be remiss to deny a project of this magnitude."
A public meeting on Yonder Field is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 28 in County Council chambers on Amelia Street. The county is also trying to schedule a meeting with emergency services officials about the project on Thursday, March 2.