By Dan Hust
KAUNEONGA LAKE July 15, 2005 The crashing thunder and bright flashes of lightning from a severe thunderstorm raging outside the Bethel Senior Center in Kauneonga Lake couldnt compare with the storm brewing inside the center Tuesday evening.
One of the many conversations that night went like so:
Its not a negotiable item.
Were not negotiating.
Either youre willing to pay your bills or not.
Were not. They dont follow your own code!
Youve had plenty of time to question the bill.
The bills dont say what Im being billed for. This is blackmail!
You didnt pay one cent last year!
And that was just the verbal tennis match between Jeryl Abramson and planning board consultant Tom Shepstone.
Abramsons husband Roy Howard and fellow Bethel resident Darren Wiseman got into a fight about drinking on their land that became so nasty that acting Planning Board Chair Leon Smith had audience members jumping out of their seats with his cracks of a gavel on the table.
As usual, the passion and controversy swirled around Howard and Abramsons plan to host a Woodstock reunion on their Bethel property the former Max Yasgur farm this August 12, 13, and 14, a few days before the music festivals 36th anniversary.
Nearby neighbor Mike Krotman summed up his feelings about the matter quite simply:
I dont like it.
The residents of the surrounding area are dragged into a party whether they want to or not, he explained angrily. Our only escape is to leave town, and weve done that year after year after year . . .
We get back, and theyre still there!
Its a terrible idea for the town, added Wiseman, who lives almost across Route 17B from Abramson and Howard.
He said hes tired of listening to bongo drums and out-of-key 60s songs early in the morning.
Its not music, he remarked. Its drunken people!
But while no promises were made regarding drunks, Abramson and Howard did announce a unique new twist on the decade-old reunion theyve hosted every year since Alan Gerry restricted access to the actual Woodstock Festival site a mile away on Hurd Road.
Were not providing any entertainment, said Howard to murmurs of surprise. We have no bands booked. We have no stages booked.
There will be vendors, he acknowledged, but there will also be security a necessary item at an event which last year featured two alleged stabbings (which, said Howard, werent prosecuted).
So whats the problem? Mainly, said Shepstone, its the camping.
The Bethel Zoning Board of Appeals is scheduled to meet this Monday at 7:30 p.m. to discuss the couples request for a temporary camping permit, but until they do, Shepstone didnt feel comfortable recommending the planning board issue a renewal of the special use permit that allowed the couple to host last years event.
You didnt comply last year, he said to Howard and Abramson, referencing camping that occurred on the property despite the towns prohibition of it.
Everyone knew there was not going to be compliance on that, shot back Abramson a fact to which Smith agreed, except that he noted that the couple provided a written guarantee that camping would not be permitted last year.
Abramson was undeterred, however, and noted that her company, Yasgur Road Productions (YRP), was in compliance with everything else. She added that the planning board should approve the renewal of the special use permit in anticipation of and with the condition that the ZBA approve the camping permit.
Shepstone replied that the planning board could only approve a special use permit with no camping provision.
Abramson and Howards case wasnt helped by the fact that YRPs Website was still listing camping and an event that had the blessing of the Town of Bethel, pointed out angry planning board member Bill Brey, who added that Howard and Abramson had promised to remove that wording.
Howard said that should have been corrected, but when Shepstone pressed them on it, Abramson admitted she had changed her mind on eliminating that language.
We wont run a reunion without camping, Abramson explained. Should the ZBA turn us down, basically I think were done.
Theres also the matter of insurance, said Shepstone, who insisted the couple have proof of insurance by August 1. While they seemed agreeable to that, Shepstone added that they should up the coverage from $1 million to $2 million.
And the board wasnt eager to forget about the fees Howard and Abramson still owe on last years permits fees that the couple intimated were not kosher, especially ones that pay for Shepstones services to the town.
Shepstone replied that such fees are charged to everyone who applies for permits requiring his services, and his bill has already been paid for by the town itself.
Those fees have been explained, he told Abramson. As Leon says, thats not a matter to be discussed here.
And with only four of the seven planning board members in attendance, the board decided it couldnt continue to discuss the matter until its next meeting except that its scheduled for August 9, three days before the reunion.
So the board unanimously agreed to convene in a special public meeting on August 2 at 7:30 p.m. to discuss YRPs permit again.