By Peter Becker
The food and wine festival proposed for Bingham Park next June, was voted down by Hawley Council, Wednesday night, Dec. 12th. The vote was 4 to 3.
Detractors emphasized lingering concerns with the concept of alcohol being permitted in a public park, despite insistence by project promoter Jon Henderson that these festivals have been done many times before in public areas with minimal problems. Henderson, at the conclusion of the vote, reminded Council of the loss to the town from the economic benefit and exposure that he said would be realized from the event.
Henderson, who was raised in Hawley, puts together similar functions in Atlantic City and has done it at other locations. He assured that the festival would be strictly controlled, with security, limitation on the tasting of wine, beer or cider, and adherence to PA Liquor Control Board regulations. The festival, he said, promised to bring in thousands of visitors and highlight the fine restaurants and wineries in the region. He hoped to make this an annual event in his hometown.
The Borough was very concerned over liability, in case something went wrong. Henderson delivered a copy of his company's insurance policy to the borough solicitor, stating that the company, Good Time Tricycle, would include the Borough and cover any costs to the Borough.
Council was also concerned over the timing of the event. Councilman John Robertson asked if the event could be delayed to 2014, to give more time to plan and avoid traffic issues with next summer.
PennDOT is planning to replace the Main Street, Lackawaxen River bridge, reducing traffic to one lane. Council President Don Kyzer said that traffic would be a"mess" by June. Park Place, at Bingham Park, might even be shut down. Henderson said that June 2013 was best for their schedule, and they could work around traffic issues with a shuttle service.
Members of the public spoke up. Jim Shook, president of the Pocono Lake Region Chamber of Commerce, said he was in favor, but as long as it did not conflict with the Chamber's craft fair in the park, also in June.
World War II vet Joe Drake said he is "totally against any alcohol in the park." He said that the VFW ran their block party there for many years without a problem, until a underage drinking incident occurred. There was a bad traffic accident after the person left the party. Drake said that the VFW was warned that every member of the local VFW post could have been sued. Henderson replied that the food and wine festival would prohibit anyone under the age of 21 on the grounds.
After the vote was taken, Jill Carletti spoke, her voiced choked with emotion. She said she was one of the few residents in their 20's concerned to see Hawley grow, and urged Council to be open-minded.
The event would also raise money that would be contributed to the Borough Parks & Recreation Committee, and local charities. Henderson said Council was giving up a revenue stream.
Kyzer said he was opposed to a wine event in the park, only 150 feet from a playground. Council member Michele Rojas asked that the event be "tweaked" by having the alcohol tasting at existing restaurants, and the food in the park. Henderson found that unacceptable, saying their established format works.
The vote went this way:
"Yes"- Elaine Herzog, Joe Faubel, John Henderson
"No"- Don Kyzer, Barbara Corrigan, Michelle Rojas, Mary Sanders.