Portland city councilors voted Monday night to postpone action on a proposed two-day music festival in Payson Park, saying they intend to revisit the proposal next year after organizers agreed to move their plans ahead by a year, to July 2024.

“This way we can dedicate the appropriate amount of time to understand what this proposal actually entails, to answer unknowns that are concerning to so many of you and to us on the council, to actually engage city staff in a more in-depth process, to be less rushed and to include other interested stakeholders,” said Councilor Andrew Zarro, who represents District 4, which includes the proposed site.

Zarro said the organizer of the festival, C3 Presents, has agreed to work with the city, the arts community and the public to try to reschedule the festival.

He asked his fellow councilors to postpone action on the proposal to June 2023, a motion that was passed unanimously.

Zarro said the decision to postpone comes after the city and councilors gathered feedback and vetted the proposal through a neighborhood meeting, council workshop and a Zoom call with the mayor. Still, he said, there are many unknowns about what the festival – which hasn’t been named yet – would entail.

“There are a couple things I’ve heard and that I think my colleagues have heard as well,” Zarro said. “I’ve heard this is far too rushed. I’ve heard there are too many unknowns. I’ve heard there are issues and concerns about the cost, environmental impacts, the traffic, the size and the timing.”

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According to an application from C3, a division of concert giant Live Nation, the festival was originally proposed for two days, July 22-23, 2023. “The festival will feature a world class musical lineup, local food and beverage offerings, sponsorship activations, kids’ programming and more,” the application reads.

The organizer estimated the event could draw between 10,000 and 20,000 people per day, and said they would work with the city to develop plans for the site layout, traffic and street closures, transportation, security and medical services.

“We would love to bring a new music festival to Portland and will continue to work with local leaders and stakeholders to try and make that happen,” said Sandee Fenton, director of communications for C3 Presents, in a statement following the council’s decision.

Since emerging last month, the festival plans have drawn both excitement and concern from residents. While the council also postponed live public comment Monday night, they received about 150 pages of written public comment on the proposal prior to the meeting.

Kathryn Carder urged the council to support the proposal. “The Payson Park summer 2023 music festival provides the opportunity to bring exorbitant revenue to the local restaurants, businesses, artists, and shops,” Carder said in an email to the council. “Non-local attendees would leave with exciting and positive stories of Portland, only yielding new interest, visitors and revenue for the City.”

But Janice and Kenneth Bailey asked the council to reject C3’s application. They said the park isn’t the right venue for such a large gathering and organizers hadn’t provided enough details for the city to make a decision.

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“We are opposed to using public parks for commercial ventures such as this that is bad for the parks and those who rely on them,” the Baileys wrote in an email. “Finally, we don’t see the need to rush into a decision that would have such a major impact on the park and the surrounding neighborhood.”

In other news Monday, the council voted on plans to spend $12.85 million of federal pandemic relief funds from the American Rescue Plan Act. The plans include $4.1 million for the city’s Jill C. Duson Housing Trust Fund, a municipal fund the city can use to help finance affordable housing developments, and $2.4 million for city staff retention bonuses.

The bonuses are to be awarded based on four tiers, with staff who were most directly impacted by COVID receiving bonuses of up to $3,000. Other bonuses will be awarded based on years of service and the degree to which employees faced COVID-related risk.

Councilors approved some changes to the original spending plans approved last month by the finance committee, which had allocated $5 million for the housing trust fund.

They opted to divert $890,000 of that money to other causes including $490,000 for Community Dental to continue providing oral care for low-income and MaineCare patients; $200,000 for energy efficiency incentives for low and moderate income households; and $200,000 for Project Home for Portland, a program that will help provide housing for people experiencing homelessness or in need of long-term housing.

Councilor Mark Dion, who chairs the finance committee, said that while housing is a top priority for the council and he felt comfortable with the work the committee had done, the amendments were also worthy of funding. “Yes, we do reduce the aggregate dollars that are going to housing, but I think we’re doing so for intentional and good reasons,” Dion said.

The council also voted unanimously Monday to approve $80,000 from the city’s land bank fund as a match to purchase land for the creation of a new North Deering Park in the North Deering neighborhood. Some councilors questioned whether the site for the proposed park could be used to develop housing, and staff said it was something that was looked at.

Some of the property, which is bounded by Washington Avenue Extension and Ballpark Drive, is wetland that would be difficult to build on, though there’s also a ball field that could be more suitable for development. “That’s more of a choice for the council – do we put housing on it or do we use it in it’s current state, and we desperately need ball fields for kids,” said Ethan Hipple, the city’s director of parks, recreation and facilities management.

He said the sellers of the property are interested in selling it as open space, and it’s unclear whether they would do so for housing. “We have done our due diligence and that’s continuing as we get closer and closer to the acquisition,” Hipple said.

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