This summer, distressed rumors swirled about the future of Pickathon, the annual roots-and-more music festival held in the woods outside Portland—that developers were encroaching on the surrounding land, and they were about to lose the parking lot allowing them to accommodate the yearly 3,500 attendees.
As it turns out, those rumors were sort of true.
On Oct. 20, the Happy Valley City Council will vote on whether to approve a 133-acre, 600-unit residential development on Scouters Mountain adjacent to Pendarvis Farm, which has hosted Pickathon for the past decade.
Don't freak out. At least not yet. City officials say there will be no immediate impact to the festival. Pickathon currently has eight years left on the conditional use permit granted them by the city planning commission.
Still, the potential for added density in the area has organizers nervous.
"It is so easy for one person to make so much noise and trouble," says Pickathon founder Zale Schoenborn. "Adding 600 more people adds more uncertainty to the equation."
Scouters Mountain is an extinct lava dome residing about 1,000 feet from the northwest corner of the Pendarvis family property, 223 acres of which were once owned by the Boy Scouts of America. In 2011, Metro bought 90 of those acres, which it maintains as a nature park. The remaining acreage is now looking to be purchased by Washington-based developer the Holt Group for a proposed 600-unit, multi-phase project.
Scott Pendarvis says the development is a "behemoth" far out of scale for the area. He worries that, if the project is approved, within the next few years the government could employ eminent domain to build an additional road on his property, possibly through the area where Pickathon takes place.
"If those houses get built," he says, "I predict plenty of people who bought into the development will say, 'I can't get out of here fast enough,' or 'An ambulance couldn't find my place,' or 'There's too much traffic, we need a road to get to 172nd Ave.' In five, eight years from now, it will be an issue."
But Michael Walter, economic and community development director for Happy Valley, says the chances of that happening are "infinitesimal." He adds that as long as the festival adheres to the myriad rules in their conditional use permit—with stipulations ranging from the number of people they can have onsite to the number of Honey Buckets they need to secure—there will be no threat of the festival getting shut down.
"No doubt there's going to be noise complaints," Walter says, "but to a certain extent, if you move in next to the airport, what good is it to call the airport and ask for the flight patterns to change?"
Still, Pendarvis says the development would alter the festival experience, which is noted for its wooded seclusion.
"[Attendees] won't see rooftops at Pickathon, but they're right around the corner," Pendarvis says. "When they drive out or bike out to come to it, they'll be coming to denser suburbia."
For his part, Schoenborn is resigned to urbanization around Pendarvis Farm. In addition to the potential Scouters Mountain development, the lot Pickathon uses for weekend parking is owned by another family, who have been looking to sell the land for years.
"You just don't know how long this magical ride will last," Schoenborn says. "We've done everything we can to keep this stars aligned. It only takes a few wingnuts to make it unravel over time."
Next year's Pickathon is scheduled for Aug. 5-7.