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The Chaffee County Commissioners have approved the Live Nations event application for Seven Peaks Music Festival Labor Day Weekend, 2019 on a unanimous vote, (pending the adoption of specific resolution items). The decision came during their Feb. 5 special public meeting called for that purpose and held in Buena Vista.

Live Nation held its first Seven Peaks Music Festival in September 2018, at the Meadows Farm on Crossman Ave. northwest of the Town of Buena Vista. While the Meadows Farm is located just outside Buena Vista town limits, the influx of concert guests has a direct impact on the town.

Live Nation Vice President of Operations Sean O’Connell, and fellow Live Nation representative Jim Reid met with the Chaffee County Board of Commissioners to answer questions regarding the application submitted by the organization. Commissioners opted to approve the application pending the finalization of the resolution, instead of postponing their decision until a later date.

Commissioners Greg Felt, Keith Baker and Rusty Granzella did review specific resolution changes requested by Live Nation. Their comments, as well as comments from county residents, saw the public hearing stretch to more than three hours. Their early approval allows Live Nation to continue its planning for the festival while the county irons out the details of the resolution with Live Nation.

O’Connell expressed Live Nation’s desire to hold the Seven Peaks festival near Buena Vista long-term. “We want to be here long term – we are going to make mistakes,” said O’Connell. “We hope, over the course of the year that we’ve known each other that we’ve demonstrated where our heart is and our commitment to delivering a great product the right way.”

Changes for Seven Peaks 2019

In 2019, the three-day music festival is scheduled from Aug. 30 to Sept. 1. Music will start at 12 p.m.. each day, and conclude before 1 a.m. The campgrounds will open on Aug. 29, and close Sept. 2; establishing a five-day camping window from Thursday through Monday.

Live Nation plans to open the campground a day earlier than last year in order to help mitigate traffic congestion and plans to have its traffic-plans finalized no later than mid-April.

Live Nation did request the modification of a few sections in the 2018 permit resolution to accommodate the 2019 festival and its planning process.

Among its various requests, Live Nation wants to appoint a local affiliate to handle questions from the Citizens Advisory Committee, without requiring Live Nation representatives to make special trips to Buena Vista. O’Connell said that in 2018, he and Reid made numerous trips to the Buena Vista area for meetings to represent Live Nation, and suggested that a local liaison with the Citizens Advisory Committee would streamlined communications.

“We are going to communicate with these folks (in Buena Vista)” O’Connell assured the commissioners, pointing out that most of the communication would take place with a liaison.

Baker pointed out the importance to the event’s success of the Citizens Advisory Committee but said he recognized the efficiency benefits of appointing a local liaison for Live Nation. Commissioners agreed this would be a beneficial change for both parties.

Live Nation also requested that the Chaffee County Commissioners allow modifications to the 2018 emergency operations plan. It pledged to seek input from all Chaffee County emergency operations departments and O’Connell said the emergency plan “has some room to grow” after learning some things from the 2018 festival. O’Connell did not give specific details, citing the document’s sensitive information.

Felt assured all in attendance at the meeting of Live Nation’s quality emergency preparedness. “I want to say this to everyone in the room, I was very impressed by the emergency document,” he said. “I thought the foresight and planning was very good, and I can see the sensitive nature of it.”

Live Nation also requested that Chaffee County allow them to employ controlled stage pyrotechnics. Live Nation does not expect any pyrotechnics use this year but wants to keep the option available for future artists.

We don’t expect any performers to utilize pyrotechnics. “I think pyro is highly unlikely [this year], we just don’t want to write it off,” O’Connell said. “I don’t think this year we will have pyro, but in the future, we might.”

Felt said Chaffee Fire wouldn’t have an issue with pyrotechnics but would want to review the use of fireworks on a case-by-case basis, to ensure all existing codes and standards are met.

The commissioners also recommended Live Nation review their policies regarding campfires, to ensure they have a protocol in place to better manage campfires at the concert grounds. Live Nation asked that commissioners remove the requirement for a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between Live Nation and the Town of Buena Vista.

Buena Vista Town Administrator, Phillip Puckett and pointed out that the presence of an MOU addresses three important aspects of the Seven Peaks impact on Buena Vista. First, it outlines Buena Vistas emergency preparedness plans and first-responder readiness.

“We rely heavily on mutual aid with other emergency services tied up at the event.” Puckett said, “It was a great event from our perspective, but we need to be prepared.”

The MOU also addresses payments for water use required by Seven Peaks; how that water use is metered and the Town of Buena Vista is compensated for its use, as well as dust mitigation on town-roads; particularly Gregg Drive. Puckett offered that the MOU between Live Nation and Buena Vista be included in the overall county plan, rather than a separate document between Live Nation and Buena Vista.

“We are very open to working through the county’s process with this.” Puckett said, “We don’t need to have an MOU with Live Nation. We can just add these requirements into the county’s process.”

The commissioners decided to include Buena Vista in a single document addressing all issues to avoid duplicating these processes in an MOU between Live Nation and Buena Vista.

Public Concerns and Support

A few individuals in attendance expressed some concerns over the event, as well as positive feedback for Seven Peaks and its impact on Buena Vista.

One concerned resident, who lives on the south side of Meadows Farm on CR 330, expressed her displeasure with the foot and bike access gate to Seven Peaks. She cited lack of management of the entrance; including litter, parking enforcement and noise. She also was concerned with no apparent line of communication with the event organizers.

Sheriff John Spezze, who was in attendance, said the sheriff’s department was aware of the situation and suggested ways to manage it, including placing temporary no-parking signs on CR 330 and increasing parking enforcement during the event.

O’Connell assured the commissioners and residents that Live Nation would pay special attention to the location in question.

“We need to do better, we failed you and we hear you,” O’Connell said. “There is a contact email on the Seven Peaks website for people to go to. [If you email] You are going to get an answer.”

Paul Rauschke, who lives near the Meadows Farm, had more concerns regarding the county commissioners lack of an existing event permitting framework. Rauschke said it’s time for the commissioners to create a comprehensive permitting process and event plan, saying many of the issues in planning large events (like Seven Peaks) would be mitigated if Chaffee County had a comprehensive process.

“The county commissioners don’t have the permitting tools that you need for a mountain town in 2019,” said Rauschke.“If [event organizers] knew what they needed to do, they might be able to meet the deadlines [more effectively]”

Preston Larimer, a local business owner, expressed his concern regarding the timing of Seven Peaks. He said for many businesses, Labor Day weekend is one of the most important weekends of the tourist season and after reviewing his numbers from 2018, in his view, Seven Peaks was keeping potential tourists away from Buena Vista during Labor Day weekend due to the large crowds and music.

Wendy Hall, a resident of Buena Vista, and an active volunteer with the Buena Vista Chamber of Commerce pointed out the importance of Live Nation’s collaboration with the Town of Buena Vista; promoting what Buena Vista has to offer to concertgoers. She suggested this could offset the loss of some tourism and business some local entrepreneurs have experienced.

O’Connell said Live Nation is dedicated to a positive impact on the community. “One of the reasons we find Buena Vista and Chaffee County as a place to do business is because it has things that our guests will want to use,” said O’Connell.“My hope is that, as we bring thousands of people from the Front Range and other areas that we will have a long-term economic effect.”