Willis trying to put Loma, festival in jam, attorney says
An attorney for Country Jam pleaded with Loma residents Thursday night to pepper Mesa County officials and would-be competitor Bobby Willis with questions and comments about Willis’ proposed country music festival, painting Willis as an “out-of-towner” who is attempting to deceive the community and harm Country Jam.
More than 80 people turned out at the Western Slope Cattlemen’s Livestock Auction house for the hourlong meeting, during which attorney Joe Coleman and several citizens raised a variety of concerns about the potential impacts of Bobby’s Birthday Bash.
“He’s hurting nonprofits and people who do business with Country Jam. Along the way, he’ll hurt Loma. But he doesn’t care,” Coleman said of Willis.
Neither Willis nor his representatives attended the meeting. They have scheduled their own community forum for 7 p.m. March 10 at Loma Elementary School.
In an e-mail sent to Coleman on Tuesday, Willis’ attorney, Kyle Finch, wrote that he and Willis didn’t see the need to attend more than one meeting and that Coleman was merely interested in drumming up opposition to Bobby’s Birthday Bash.
“It is obvious that your client, Country Jam, wishes the project to fail, and we believe that the residents of Loma, Mack and Grand Junction are smart enough not to pass judgment after hearing information from a biased competitor without full information of our event,” Finch wrote. “If you had truly been interested in our input at your meeting, or in presenting varying viewpoints on the situation fairly, certainly you would have consulted with us about our availability before scheduling the meeting.”
Willis, who has indicated he has lived in Loma for about nine months, has filed a conditional-use permit application with the county to put on a free festival on 82 acres north of Interstate 70 and west of Colorado Highway 139.
The proposal has angered Country Jam, not only because the Mack festival will be the same June weekend, but because Country Jam officials allege Willis violated a contractual agreement.
Country Jam owners have filed a lawsuit against Willis, alleging he used proprietary information about the festival obtained during negotiations to purchase Country Jam to plan a competing event. Willis has denied the claim.
During Thursday’s meeting, Coleman noted Willis has been reluctant to share information about his personal and financial background and dodged several questions aimed at learning more about him and the festival.
“I’m looking forward to seeing him and saying, ‘Isn’t it time you tell the people of Grand Junction some simple truths? Do you have any ability to do this?’ ” Coleman said.
He predicted Bobby’s Birthday Bash will create gridlock on county roads that also are being used by Country Jam patrons and that residents could encounter problems with Bobby’s Birthday Bash attendees parking along county roads and blocking driveways.
Loma resident Rob Kurtzman said Bobby’s Birthday Bash is “untenable,” claiming law enforcement doesn’t have the resources to provide services to and ensure the safety of the tens of thousands of people who will converge on Loma and Mack that weekend.
One woman asked Coleman how Willis could afford to pay for the festival’s acts if the concert is free.
“You do the math,” Coleman replied.
Loma resident Lance Stewart said he has been told Willis is attempting to buy property in the Loma area to create a permanent entertainment venue and recreational-vehicle parking in an effort to make the festival a permanent fixture.
The Mesa County Planning Commission and Mesa County Commission are scheduled to hold public hearings on the conditional-use permit April 14 and 26, respectively.