Friday, April 19

The Crestone Eagle is a nonprofit monthly newspaper serving Crestone and the San Luis Valley

Crestone Board still divided on town stage, events

By Anya Kaats.

A town-appointed special events committee was created last month to address town board and resident concerns about hosting events in the town. Despite the formation of this committee, town trustees remain divided in their support.

At the March 11 meeting, Crestone trustees reviewed an email from Saguache-based artist Gigi Douglas. Douglas proposed a collaborative mural project along with students from Crestone Charter School and community members, to create a paint-by-numbers outer-space themed mural on a removable plywood backdrop on the town stage. Douglas’ email stated that the mural would be paid for by a Saguache County Sales Tax Grant that Douglas had already received.

Trustee Kim Martinez responded to the proposal with firm objections, citing a lack of clarity about whether or not the town was liable for maintaining the stage. “The stage was donated to the town, so it was pretty much stuffed down our throats. Can we remodel it or are they going to throw a fit if we remodel it? They just dumped (it) on us and now we’re supposed to maintain it,” Martinez lamented. 

Martinez claimed that local resident and event producer Nicolas Nevares never provided the town with paperwork stating that the stage was the property of the town, as he had promised. “(Nevares) said he would put it in writing that this was ours, that we could tear it down, we could move it. But there’s no paperwork,” said Martinez.

Mayor Kairina Danforth suggested the board defer decision on the mural in order to conduct a more comprehensive review. “Until we establish some basic parameters of who owns (the stage) and who insures it, we can’t really make any decisions,” Danforth explained.

In a statement to The Crestone Eagle, Nevares clarified: “It was understood by the board that the funding and build for the stage would happen in intervals, and that once each interval was complete, they would receive a letter, which they have. Since the town’s insurance cannot insure the stage until it’s fully complete, and since we’ve only completed the first phase of funding, anyone that uses the stage needs to purchase independent insurance to cover liability. I have worked with town staff to ensure these policies have been in place for each event we’ve produced since the stage was built.” 

Nevares added that he has concerns about handing over ownership of the stage to the town once it’s completed due to Martinez’s comments. “Hearing this manipulation facts, and threats to tear down a stage that our community paid for without any financial help from the town, makes me feel hesitant to trust the board with final ownership until there are more reasonable trustees in place.”

Later in the meeting, Lydia Sprouts of Crestone Performances Inc., presented an application to the board to host the 2024 Crestone Music Festival in town. The request prompted even more pushback from Martinez. “They don’t want to pay sales tax to the town of Crestone, yet they want festivals here. If you want to play, you’ve got to pay. I have no problem with the Energy Festival or the Music Festival, I just don’t think it’s fair that people are refusing to pay $3.50 for every $100 they spend — that’s a lousy tip,” Martinez added, presumably referencing the excess online sales tax charged to residents and visitors of the Baca Grande since 2020. 

Trustee Benjamin Byer, a member of the special events committee, responded in an effort to reassure Martinez. “We had a three-hour event committee meeting, and there is a lot of stuff that you might like — putting the responsibility on event planners to have more responsible events.” Byer also credited Sprouts for proposing to end the music festival at 7 p.m. “That’s a big deal,” Byer insisted. Town resident and member of the special events committee Allison Wonderland spoke of the committee’s working objectives. “The goals…are to provide recommendations to the board addressing the needs and concerns of the town, the local community, and the organizations that wish to hold events in town.” The committee plans to address issues including, “community’s need for events, sound, parking, safety, property, town residents’ activities of daily living, communication.”

Citing additional concerns, Martinez and Danforth referenced previous events where Nevares overspent his initial bid, forcing the town to assume financial liability. Byer once again spoke about the work of the events committee, ensuring Martinez that moving forward, event planners will have to assume more responsibility. 

“We’ve gotten into so much debate over whether we want to have these events in town because when it comes down to it, (the town is) responsible. We need to make sure the responsibility falls back onto the planners and to have some sort of consequence for any violations that happen,” Byer said. Byer also suggested that the town apply for Saguache County Sales Tax grants in order to help cover event costs in the future.

Nevares acknowledged the overages. “Yes, there have been overages, but the town never expressed that this was a problem until last year. Last year, I agreed to split the overages with them, which only amounted to about $1k. The rest of the money used to produce these events have come from grants I apply for myself on behalf of the town, personal funds, and money I raise on my own.” This year, Nevares has agreed to produce the 4th of July event through his company, rather than through the town, and the town has agreed to provide $4k to help with expenses.

After significant debate — despite the opposition — the board approved the Crestone Music Festival contingent upon Sprouts addressing concerns regarding parking, security, providing a map, and meeting the requirements of the special events committee.

The board wrapped up its discussion of events by looking ahead to the 4th of July, and The Crestone Energy Fair. Byer explained that the work of the special events committee will be ongoing. “The 4th of July and the music festival will be our opportunity to get information and do a trial. If we decide to do the Energy Fair (in town), we’re going to have to add a lot more detail,” Byer explained.

Martinez and Danforth responded to Byer with concerns about the Energy Fair as a whole. “It looked like a yard sale,” said Martinez. “I didn’t see anything on solar or alternative building materials. It was a fashion fair,” she continued. Danforth expressed disappointment that while she used to love the Energy Fair, she felt it was “not good” last year.

The Crestone Energy Fair responded  in a statement: “The Crestone Energy Fair has continually represented best practices in alternative and natural building, regenerative agriculture, and renewable energy generation for thirty-five years. Last year we showcased community panel conversations focused on food sovereignty, natural building, forest bio-diversification, regenerative agriculture, alternative medicine, and owner-builders, plus live building demonstrations, all at no cost to attend. We also include vendor booths at our event to support local artisans and commerce.”

The board’s next regular meeting is scheduled for Monday, April 8 at 9:30 a.m. and will include an update from the special events committee and a final vote on the Crestone Music Festival. Residents can attend in person at Crestone Town Hall or via Zoom. People can submit public comments by email in advance of the meeting. Email to receive the Zoom links and agendas.

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