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Hillsdale Officials Vote In Favor Of Drive-In Theater, Expected To Run 7 Days Per Week

Demarest Farm
Demarest Farm Photo Credit: Demarest Farm Facebook

The summer movie series at Demarest Farm is on -- and movies will be allowed to run seven days a week.

The majority of Hillsdale council members during a special meeting Tuesday voted in favor of passing a resolution to temporarily suspend a zoning ordinance in the farm's section (R1) to allow a drive-in theater. The resolution was formally passed at the end of the meeting and will be signed by the mayor and borough clerk once finalized.

Frank Pizzella voted and Zoltan Horvath were the two council members who voted against the resolution. The permit will be for the summer season only and revokable at any time (scroll for specifics on the permit).

Tuesday's special meeting was called after borough officials accused farm owner Jason Degise of failing to notify police and submit a zoning application for the drive-in movie series he planned. It wasn't until residents began emailing police and Mayor John Ruocco that borough officials were made aware of the drive-in theater.

While Degise initially advertised movies to run three days a week for 11 weeks, he said during Tuesday's meeting he will be showing one movie every night of the week for 11 weeks.

Many Hillsdale residents expressed the need for the theater after months of being stuck at home. Ruocco said he was against the drive-in theater because it is located in a residential neighborhood and because Degise did not follow the process for planning the event.

"I am not a fan of having drive-ins in residential neighborhoods -- they should be in commercially zoned neighborhoods," the mayor said. 

"They ignored and tried to really circumvent the process in failing to notify police in advance and posting what I thought was deceptive information on social media.

"They were deceptive in saying it was approved by the state. It just left a bad taste in my mouth."

The drive-in permit requires:

  • Doors open at 7:30 p.m., movies begin at 8:30 p.m.
  • There will be a maximum limit of 100 vehicles per night to be monitored by police or the borough's zoning officer
  • The screen will be facing the farm store
  • The lot must be completely empty exactly 30 minutes after the movie ends
  • Police expenses will be covered by the farm
  • There will be no alterations

The change in the event schedule -- shifting from three days a week to seven -- took borough officials by surprise, Ruocco said, noting he wonders how residents will react.

Degise says movies will be available seven days a week depending on the weather.

"We have set dates for every month," he told Daily Voice. "We did not book in case of rescheduling due to weather."

Degise said he is thrilled that the majority of council members voted in favor of the theater.

"I’m so happy the mayor and council worked with the farm during during these unprecedented times," he said. We will continue as promised to help the borough in any way to bring business to our downtown district. This is what community is all about. 

"Let’s start to make new memories for families on the farm."

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