HORNING'S HIDEOUT is only a 20-minute drive from Portland, but it's a world away from our city's dark and smoky clubs. From Hwy 26, a dusty gravel road wanders through farmland before reaching the 20-plus acre spread. There's a pond and paddle boats for rent; peacocks wander the grounds oblivious to concert goers. There's a perfect, natural amphitheater facing a giant makeshift stage. It's ideal for summer concerts and, increasingly, multi-day festivals have become an annual institution.

For the past several years, KBOO has hosted Pickathon, an overnight music festival, at the site. And this summer, music promoters hoped to throw even more festivals. There was the first annual Northwest World Reggae Festival scheduled for this weekend and The Shakedown Festival, a veritable hippie conference, planned for later next month.

But that was before Horning's Hideout met up with the greatest enemies to all things cool: bureaucracy and cranky county officials. Earlier this summer, with five music festivals already scheduled for the outdoor venue, Washington County denied permits for three of them. Since then, owner Bob Horning has been fighting with county bureaucrats to make sure the shows go on--and to save the music venue from the tangle of new rules and regulations.

"We've been through the wringer," Horning told the Mercury.

Horning's problems started earlier this year when rules pertaining to outdoor events like concerts were re-drafted. Under the new rules, a venue could only host one "mass gathering" event every three months without permits. That change sent Horning scrambling.

By early May, he thought everything was in order. Horning spoke with county officials and was told he simply needed to file for the new permits and they would green light the concerts. But then, five days before his hearing, Horning called to confirm his paperwork was in order, and was told the county planned to deny his requests. It meant that three concerts--the majority of the venue's summer schedule--would be canceled.

Not to be deterred, Horning decided to use the controversial Measure 37 in his favor. Under the ballot measure, a landowner can sue the county if he believes a regulation has taken away the revenue-generating capacity of his land. Because Horning's Hideout has been used for concerts since the '80s, Horning has a valid claim. Under Measure 37 rules, county officials have the choice to either pay Horning for revenue he's lost due to the regulations, or to yield and essentially give Horning a waiver to host the concerts. Without the funds to pay out spendy Measure 37 claims, the county has been voting to give in.

For a moment, all seemed to be sunny again at Horning's Hideout and the concerts would go on. The head of the land use bureau even stepped in to help shepherd Horning's Measure 37 claim through the system.

But that was last month, and since then everything has once again soured.

"They started to play politics with us," Horning says. "We're trying to satisfy their requests, but they continue to put hurdles in our face." Horning worries that some neighbors may be "on a crusade" against the summer concerts.

Horning had a hearing at the county scheduled for July 19--which was just enough time to receive a favorable ruling and to host the concerts. But then, two of the commissioners went on vacation and the hearing was postponed--and the promoters were forced to give up hope on Horning's Hideout.

This weekend, the NW World Reggae Fest will be held outside Woodburn (from I-5 take the Woodburn Exit, go east for 4.7 miles, turn onto Pudding River Road and follow signs). Pickathon also has been relocated to the Woodburn venue, August 12-13. And, The Shakedown, a three-day concert with hippie favorites--including Mickey Hart, Spearhead, and Medeski, Martin & Wood--has been moved to Columbia Meadows for August 26-28.

The county officials' stubbornness to work with Horning has cost local merchants thousands of dollars, with cancellations at hotels and lost revenue to nearby grocery stores. County commissioners did not return the Mercury's calls.