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It is no secret that feelings are running high among some elements of the population regarding summer concerts, specifically music events scheduled at The Meadows on county land at the edge of Buena Vista. But the uproar created during Chaffee Board of County Commissioners’ (BoCC) regular meeting when the resolution for the previously approved “Meet Me at the Creek” was uncivil, a fact pointed out by BoCC Chair Greg Felt.

“I don’t want to leave things unsaid that are real issues,” said Chair Greg Felt. “We did approve this event in the last meeting. This resolution is meant to memorialize our findings, laying out the approval. This applicant took the initiative to grab the earliest possible date in the context of our board of health meetings, and asked for a date. There were things we needed to figure out; we did a June 7 Board of Health meeting [which raised the county’s event cap to 5,000]. We had a full public hearing on June 10 and we approved it. Now we are hung up – guilty as charged, on a couple things we should have figured out two years ago that aren’t quite clear. That part isn’t the applicant’s fault. Let’s be honest, let’s be kind.”

Seven Peaks Festival crew members work to finish setting up the main stage at The Meadows in 2018. Photo by Joe Stone.

The busy Tuesday morning of the Chaffee BoCC June 22 session was supposed to be primarily on routine items. The previously-approved permit application was for a mid-Sept. event called “Meet Me at the Creek” event by Bonfire Entertainment (a music festival organizer out of Steamboat Springs) on the Meadows outside Buena Vista.

Meet Me at the Creek is a new single-year event permit request, but the county has previously approved several smaller Campout for a Cause June events by the same organizer in past years. The agenda was intended to refine conditions for the resolution.

A significant element of the audience on the Zoom meeting seemed to believe that they could stop the commissioner’s approval. The chat function contained several comments about traffic, alcohol consumption timeframes, pre and post-construction, and noise.

The state noise level is 50 dB. Questions came up regarding how sound is measured; from the soundboard, or the edge of the neighboring properties. “For three years we have dealt with this as ‘turn down the sound’ so that at property boundaries, it doesn’t surpass our sound limits,” said Felt. “We’ve done sound studies for three years…. that’s what we do, not add things like hay bales.”

A big meadow with bigger views, The Meadows is looking to host as many as 12 large events per year. Greg Wright photo

“The sound studies we got found the sound levels did exceed the sound limits at the property lines,” said Planning Manager Jon Roorda. “We’ve interpreted this as part of the nonprofit for Campout for a Cause. But to repeat a prior note, the nearest property line is 700 feet away, using the calculator, 108 dB at 160 feet is 95.2 dB at property line. It needs to meet the state statute 25 feet. from the property line.”

The question arose; if an event is organized by a nonprofit could this give the music event an exemption from the noise standard?

“That seems far-fetched….. otherwise you’d always go find a little nonprofit,” said Felt. “I’m really concerned, because this is a relatively minor event, and in a couple hours we’re going to hear about a much bigger event, I feel  like we don’t have a handle on this – no question it’s loud.”

“This one has been demonstrably quieter [for their past events],” said Commissioner Keith Baker.

“A moderate conversation is 60 dBs. I’ve crafted this event to not be several bands, not to start music until 4:00 p.m. and there are no multiple bands,” said Bonfire Entertainment President Scotty Stoughton, a Colorado small business based in Steamboat Springs.

“This is a bluegrass-forward event, there is drums and bass, it’s curated with the community in mind….yes we are a for-profit company, but we hire all local vendors, from food catering to security, to set up crews to toilets,” said Stoughton. “We make these community events that are year after year…it’s only one main stage, but if it’s windy all day long, and we have to wait to use a forklift, we might go past the setup time limit.”

The fact that association with a nonprofit may exempt a group or space from the noise law prompted a lengthy discussion. Owner of The Meadows and South Main Jed Selby, said only that “there is a provision by which we can structure the relationship so we are not breaking the law…that’s how you get a liquor license for an event.”

Commissioners decided that they weren’t comfortable with deviating from the state statute, but that how the event met those levels was a requirement that the event organizers should solve. County legal added, “It’s on the board to set the level, and on the applicant to comply — so levels at the property line don’t exceed state statute.

This prompted the development staff to suggest the applicant do some sound mapping.”

During the course of the unexpectedly long discussion, the level of comments on the meeting’s chat function disintegrated to insults and making questionable claims.

“Frankly, Scotty you have a lot of nerve calling we country bumpkins and telling us what we should or should not want in our town,” wrote David Olmstead.

This prompted Stoughton to respond. “We’ve been invited to many communities, and we’ve always operated within local rules. There is a huge level of support from this county. It is not becoming of a quality county to go out and make these comments and call me and my family out,” said Stoughton in what sounded like a choked voice. “Community is about compromise; the name-calling, calling out people who are trying to do something good is just …. I’m pretty upset about that. This is a world-class event, my artists want to come here and play a show, they don’t want to play all day, or late at night, they want to bus downtown, take in the place. This is a 200 percent positive for this community.”

Stoughton pointed out, “Do you want special events that raise the culture of this county on 277 acres a mile from town?” There is no guarantee that I’ll make money on this. I’ve lost money on every Campout for a Cause. But I think there needs to be a higher conversation. Except for the 10 people here calling me names behind my back, I have vast support from your community for this. My track record speaks for itself. We are trying to be honest about these decibel levels – would the residents be disturbed by noise – they would be if I walked up and dropped a pin. This is really stressful, please don’t treat me like I’m trying to screw you over. I will always be kind, transparent and my phone is always on.”

This prompted Bill Coner to write: “We love the music and sound it produces. We are very impacted by the Festival. We live between the two meadows. It impacts us. We have chosen to make “lemonade” out of lemons … we appreciate the beauty of the meadows which are well taken care of since Selby’s acquired the land. The Festival or other gatherings do not affect them in a negative way. You can reach out to us to come see for yourselves from the vantage point we are blessed to have on our property. We appreciate the effort to get things right but those who are just plain complaining unnecessarily are disturbing more than the sound of the music.”

The motion to approve the resolution authorizing Meet Me at the Creek was made by Baker, seconded by Commissioner Rusty Granzella, and approved unanimously. It includes these amendments:

  • Amending the hours for setup and takedown
  • Amending the hours for alcohol sales from 2:00 p.m to 12:00 midnight on Friday and Saturday, Sept. 24-25
  • Include noise mitigation to reflect CRS 25-12-103 of 2016 – for noise abatement. (It noted that they could not at this time determine if the applicant does or does not qualify for the nonprofit exemption.)