Orchard Mesa neighbors say Bobby Bash concerns not heard
Living in the shadow of the Mesa County Fairgrounds grandstand for the past 20 years, Scott Foster has learned to adjust to the noise, traffic and dust from the county fair, which predated his arrival in the Grand Valley. He’s learned to cope with the growl of the monster truck rallies and the whine of the engines from the motorcycle races, both of which were introduced after he bought his house on B Road.
But the introduction next month of a free three-day country music festival that could draw 20,000 or more people each day — the equivalent of the population of Montrose — has Foster wondering how much more he and his family can handle.
Orchard Mesa residents and business owners who had little opportunity to offer feedback during a public hearing last month are bristling at the prospect of Bobby’s Birthday Bash setting up camp in the middle of a dense residential neighborhood for what’s expected to be the largest event ever held at the fairgrounds. They cite concerns including noise, traffic, drunken driving and trespassing.
“My ultimate concern is they let it in once, how many more times will they let it in?” Foster asked while standing outside his house on a recent afternoon.
Bobby’s Birthday Bash proprietor Bobby Willis originally intended to hold the festival in Loma, but in a last-minute venue change, county commissioners on April 26 unanimously granted Willis a use license to put on the festival at the fairgrounds. The event is scheduled from noon to 10 p.m. June 23–25, although the license grants him access to the fairgrounds from June 20–27.
County officials posted the notice about the proposal to move the festival to the fairgrounds a little more than 24 hours before the April 26 meeting. Most people didn’t learn about it until after the decision already had been made.
Donna Ross, acting director of regional services for the county, said the zoning for the fairgrounds allows concerts. She also noted that a fairgrounds use license is typically approved administratively and that the only reason commissioners held a public hearing was because of the $75,000 base fee charged to Willis. Licenses accompanied by fees under $7,500 are approved administratively.
While county officials and representatives with Bobby’s Birthday Bash are still working to determine the capacity of the fairgrounds, Regional Services Director Tom Fisher told commissioners the fair has drawn as many as 12,000 to 14,000 people in a day.
But 28-year Orchard Mesa resident Ralph D’Andrea and KOA Campground owner Curt Pauli claim there is a significant difference between the fair and Bobby’s Birthday Bash.
They say the fair’s attendees come and go throughout the day and usually stay for no more than a few hours, and that those who show up for Bobby’s Birthday Bash more likely will hang out all day.
“We’re talking about 30 hours spread out over three days,” D’Andrea said. “It’s totally unprecedented in the history of that facility.”
Pauli, who has owned the six-acre campground at 2819 U.S. Highway 50 for eight years, said he’s worried about thousands of vehicles converging on the highway in an urban area each night and fairgrounds campers encroaching on his property.
“Country Jam has had years to practice for this, to get their bugs worked out, to get traffic issues resolved, and they still have problems,” Pauli said. “These guys (Bobby’s Birthday Bash) are in a confined area with no buffer zone.”
Pauli said he has discouraged Country Jam attendees from staying at KOA when they call in search of a place to crash during the Mack festival because it’s a “family-oriented” campground.
“I can see some real, real issues,” he said of Bobby’s Birthday Bash. “We’ll have complaints (from campground users) about noise. We have complaints when the monster trucks are going. It’s going to be multiplied by this.”
Foster and D’Andrea said Fairgrounds Manager Marsha Kosteva has been responsive to their inquiries and concerns in the past and that fairgrounds events traditionally have ended when they’re supposed to. But they said previous complaints to the Sheriff’s Department about fairgrounds noise have gone unanswered.
Foster said he just wants the county and Bobby’s Birthday Bash to extend “some common courtesy” to his neighbors and him.
“This is a neighborhood, and I think the county needs to realize they’re in the midst of a neighborhood,” he said.
Rich Krohn, an attorney for Willis, said Monday many event details that will be reviewed by a number of state and county agencies are still being hammered out. As far as parking is concerned, he said there will be on-site parking for entertainers, event staff, premium ticket holders and some campsites. There will be an off-site parking area for general admission ticket holders who will then be shuttled to the fairgrounds.
“There is a substantial and very detailed and complex traffic management plan that goes along with this,” Krohn said. “That’s one of our biggest pieces in this, is a successful traffic management plan.”
In response to noise concerns, Krohn noted “there are other events of similar types” held at the fairgrounds and that Bobby’s Birthday Bash will comply with whatever regulations are in place.