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Music Church Zoning Decision Upheld

(CelebrityAccess MediaWire) — A zoning hearing board in Fayette County, Pennsylvania, upheld a zoning officer's decision to cite the Church of Universal Love and Music for outdoor festivals held last year.

Last week's decision shot down an appeal made by William D. "Willy" Pritts, owner of 147-acre property considered a place of worship by some and a noise, illegal concert ground by others. Pritts was fighting citations issued on August 3 and 31 of 2004, but did not show up for a hearing on the matter scheduled. In May, the state Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of similar citations that had been issued in 2003.

The citations were issued after a zoning officer received numerous complaints about the noise and gathering from Pritts' neighbord and township officials.

The board's decision comes at a time when Pritts is preparing for his fourth annual Freedom Festival, a three-day event on the Fourth of July weekend that last year drew about 850 attendees.

Pritts' land is classified for agricultural use, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. He was accused of using his property illegally as a for-profit business by hosting the concerts. Pritts argued that he accepts donations to help offset the production costs, but does charge ticket prices.

The zoning officer, however, testified that he was able to reserve four tickets by phone for $240.

Pritts' organization and outdoor festivals have gained a strong following. People have testified at previous zoning hearings that his events are peaceful and strengthen the community.

A handful of neighbors, however, continued to spead out against Pritts, claiming that the concerts are too loud and may stunt area development.

Pritts' public relations representative, Simon Says Publicity, indicated in a statement that the event will go on as planned.

"This year's main event will happen as well without hesitation and will no doubt provide the same atmosphere of promoting peace and unity through live music," the statement read, according to the Tribune-Review.

Funk legend George Clinton and jazz bassist Victor Wooten are both scheduled for this year's show.

Zoning office Solicitor Sheryl Heid told the hearing board that the citations will continue as long as Pritts' festivals continue. –by CelebrityAccess Staff Writers