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What a difference a few years make.

While nearly any mention of concerts on The Meadows in Buena Vista at one time elicited intense public comment and heated objections, the application for a multi-year permit application for Bonfire Entertainment didn’t just proceed with no objections during this week’s  Chaffee Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) session this week. It got applause at the unanimous vote of approval by the BoCC.

Bonfire Entertainment has been approved for a multi-year special event permit for The Meadows for its Bluegrass Renewal music festival. Renewal Map courtesy of

The five-year permit approval will allow Bonfire Entertainment, led by Scotty Stoughton and based out of Steamboat Springs to present the Billy Strings Bluegrass concert each autumn from 2024 through 2029.

“The proposed resolution is updated and the biggest change is discussion regarding the annual review, attendance, and a proposed extra day of music in the application,” said Development Director Miles Cottom. “The area that says ‘shall not exceed 8,500 attendance in any year’, is there and the board could increase the cap up to the numbers requested by the applicant.”

Translated, that means that during an annual review of the permit by December 31 of each year, the applicant could request an adjustment to the allowed increase in audience size annually from 8,500 to 9,000, to 9,500, etc.

Cottom added that the permit would include a list of anything considered a substantial change, “Like a big date change — which would need a new special event permit.”

Cottom said another adjustment to the permit application was the addition of one extra day to the event. “We structured it as Day one they can enter, days two and three are music and all festival activities, and day four is the wind-down. Any increase in amplified sound would require board approval during the annual review [the December prior].”

“I think you did a great job capturing our discussion (last week),” said Commissioner Greg Felt. “We have the annual review but is this a public hearing? Is there a step between an annual review and submitting a new permit?”

There were no public comments against the multi-year permit application and applause after Commissioner Keith Baker made the motion, Felt seconded and the three commissioners gave unanimous approval.

The community support for this particular event at this venue has grown over the past few years, as Stoughton and his team have carefully worked to refine the execution of the music festival.

Last year, Stoughton was asked why he didn’t apply for a multi-year permit after Chaffee County had adjusted its special event permit to include a multi-year option. “I want to get everything just right,” responded Stoughton. “We’re still refining how this festival works at this venue. It has to be the very best it can be.”

During the meeting’s public comment, resident Jerry White raised the question of whether or not an activity notice had been filed for the Mount Princeton Geothermal project, and the BoCC said as far as they knew, it had not, nor did they know where such an activity notice should be filed.

White noted that the state’s geothermal activity articles required this to be filed and said in his opinion that the rules would not allow exploration on the land next to Mt. Princeton. But what is in question is how to define the term “director”.

“When you refer to a “director”, is that the state director of the state energy group?” asked Felt.

White responded that “It’s poorly written –  it’s not specified, but in the 1041 regs, you could make the assumption.”

“When we wrote our 1041 rules there were no state rules,” said County Attorney Daniel Tom. “So we created the 1041.”

The BoCC agreed that the chapter on 1041 rules in Wood’s view “probably needs to be cleaned up.”

Common Ground Partnership Agreement Format Approved

Under their regular agenda items, the BoCC went on to assign Wood, who has just assumed the role of BoCC Chairman, as their proxy for Colorado Counties Inc. sessions and action.

Led by Common Ground Committee Member Michael Hannigan, they reviewed the Common Ground presentation regarding the development of a new partnership framework.

“We use grants and partnerships to advance important projects,” explained Hannigan. “We’ve created a draft partnership document.” He added that the Common Ground project list has grown, including everything from the Conservation Connection to keep water in the valley, and keeping ag workers working, to the Chaffee Rec rangers and Rec Adopters. “It really took off,” he added.

But, Hannigan explained for future projects that need to get funded in a bigger way, Common Ground needs a more systematized approach.

“Chaffee Chips, the virtual fencing project and portable toilets, the committee voted unanimously to send this to you … to consider the greater impact on the future in Chaffee County. Chaffee County has granted $7.6 million into the community matched by almost $21 million from the outside. We think the partnership project is the next phase.” He added, “The criteria to be a partner are pretty strict.”

“The partnerships program will give an increased sense of commitment to entities like the Fire Protection district, or the state forest,” said Felt. “It makes our work more effective.”

“The framework looks good,” added Tom. “Once people start seeing the partnership recap – what we’re looking for with each organization … I’ve been contacted by several different counties already, [Clear Creek, Summit, and La Plata]  about what we’re doing and how we got there.”

The BoCC moved unanimously to approve the Common Ground partnership framework.