Friday, May 24

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

Locals pack town meeting, express support for events in town

By Anya Kaats.

Crestone and Baca Grande residents packed town hall Monday, offering more than an hour of impassioned commentary in support of having events in town, passing a special events noise ordinance and working together as a community to address other recurring topics.

In a special meeting Jan. 29, Crestone town trustees had suggested the possibility of removing events such as July Fourth, Crestone Energy Fair and Crestone Music Festival from within town limits. “Times have changed. Our town and the number of people who come to events is growing, and the sound of the music is increasingly drawing a lot of complaints,” explained Mayor Kairina Danforth.

Nick Nevares, organizer and producer of many events in the past seven years, expressed surprise the board hadn’t notified him of the meeting given that a discussion about events was on its agenda. Nevares, a Baca Grande resident and Realtor, asked the board if it wants him to apply for a Saguache County Sales Tax grant to fund the July Fourth event, as he has in previous years. That’s when the board pushed back about events. 

“Two years ago we pretty much agreed that a lot of events have outgrown the town. They tear up the parks, and overwhelm our staff,” said Trustee Kim Martinez. “We can’t ignore how serious the noise pollution is,” Danforth added. Trustee Dennis Posluszny also expressed concern, explaining that “It’s more than just the music. It’s the yelling, the screaming and the applause. It’s the car parking, the transport, the congestion of trying to move vehicles in and out. Posluszny also claimed, “It’s people trespassing on other people’s property who get very aggressive when they’re asked nicely to leave.” 

Nevares reminded the board about a similar discussion last year concerning noise which resulted in an agreement to craft a noise ordinance for special events. “We had a route to solving this problem, but the board decided not to pass (a special events noise ordinance). The code enforcer at the time quit in protest for not having that ordinance passed. The noise ordinance levels that we were offering were way lower than what you experienced at the Energy Fair and July Fourth, but if we don’t have an ordinance, we can’t adhere to it.” The board explained that they chose not to pass the noise ordinance claiming 80% of town residents rejected the proposal. 

Trustee Benjamin Byer urged the board to “involve the whole community” in these conversations, especially since the special meeting had not been announced to the public as per the town’s standard procedure. 

While the board did not threaten to cancel events outright many trustees were in support of relocating events to other locations outside the town, in addition to eliminating amplified music. 

“To me and many people in this town, eliminating amplified music means cancelling the event. I’m not willing to produce an event without music, so the town would be on their own,” Nevares explained. 

In response to learning of the January meeting, more than 20 Crestone and Baca Grande residents showed up in person and on Zoom to voice their concerns. Crestone town residents’ comments were prioritized. Ultimately the board extended its usual fifteen-minute allotment for citizens’ comments to accommodate residents of the Baca Grande who demanded their voices be heard.

Speaking as an individual, County Commissioner Liza Marron urged the board to think about how meaningful Crestone’s events are to the greater community and local commerce. “These events are really important, and I personally, along with many others, invest a lot of money in Crestone when we attend events. I highly encourage you to think about the meaning of events in this community as you make your decisions today.”

“Town is where our community meets,” said Crestone resident Lars Skogen. “We have to be amendable to the fact that a town serves a certain function — allowing people to get together, to celebrate, and have fun. Our events pull in people from the Baca and from the Town of Crestone, allowing us to gather as one community.”

Melinda Davis, Baca Grande resident and employee of Crestone Spirits echoed Marron’s comments. After ten years working in town Davis said, “I can confirm that these events bring in a lot of money and it gives an opportunity for so many artists to be able to not only display and sell their products to people who are coming here. My biggest concern is that we’re going to be taking away an opportunity for people to lift themselves up by taking away their opportunity to sharing in this commerce.”

Crestone Charter School teacher Daya Scheide attended via Zoom from his classroom. “This is the future of Crestone,” he said pointing to his students. “The students that attend this school are both Baca residents and Crestone residents, but either way, they’re the heart and soul of our community. Events like the Fourth of July, the Music Festival, and the Energy Fair are the highlights of our summer. This is how we gather and build community. If you take away these events, you’re going to drive the community away.”

LeRoy West, a Baca Grande Property Owners Association board member spoke as a Baca Grande resident. “Our events bring people in from all over the state and the country, and they are a huge economic driver. It’s really important that we continue to host these events, and I think there is a strong, mutual interest from everyone who produces the events to take care of the town residents’ concerns.”

All speakers acknowledged the need for a special events noise ordinance and the importance of accommodating town residents’ concerns. 

Town resident Warren Stevens — who had called those in support of events in town “(expletives removed)” at the special meeting — clarified his position. “My objection is not to events. My objection is to a violation of the agreement that was in place for last year’s Energy Fair. It was supposed to end at 8:30, but by nine o’clock the music was still playing,” he said. “I don’t object to music, but we have a noise pollution problem that’s annoying the people who live in town.”

Lydia Sprouts, Baca Grande resident and director of Crestone Performances Inc. addressed Stevens complaints directly. “I would like to apologize to Warren on behalf of myself and the Energy Fair. Normally, I am the timekeeper at the events I help to produce, but during last year’s Energy Fair I had a baby, so I wasn’t there. I’m sorry we didn’t keep our word, but that is something we intend to do going forward. We can improve and be better.”

Baca resident Christian Manfield also issued an apology directly to the Board. “I would like to apologize that this is the first time I’ve showed up to one of these meetings, because I am a member of this community. People can assume the Board is trying to assume authority and tell everybody what to do, but I know your job is hard.” Manfield continued, “I’d like to remind everyone that this might be a pivot point where we choose how we’re going to make decisions and what kind of changes we’re going to adopt.”

Following citizens comments, the board revisited the topic of events at the end of the nine-hour meeting. “It’s always good to have citizen participation at town meetings, but I felt like everybody showed up had somehow been misinformed that the town was going to cancel the events,” said Trustee Kizzen Laki. “Somehow the word went out that we weren’t going to have events, and that’s just totally not the case,” she lamented. 

Laki didn’t attend the special meeting. The mayor and trustees were equally surprised by how many residents were under the impression the board intended to cancel town events. “Nobody is considering cancelling events, but there needs to be respect and there needs to be balance. I think the idea of having a committee is a good idea,” Laki added. 

A discussion among key stakeholders led to the approval of creating a special events committee comprised of trustees Byer and Armando Martinez, town residents, and one Baca Grande resident. Those people have yet to be named. 

Appointed liaisons representing each event will work alongside the committee to ensure protocols related to noise, event timing, parking, traffic, and security are followed. The board agreed that the special events committee will also help institute a new noise ordinance setting a standard for amplified music. 

“I think this is a great idea,” exclaimed Nevares. “There needs to be accountability on both ends so that there is direct communication and cooperation.” Danforth agreed. “I’m feeling really good about this. I think we are finally on a journey towards being able to communicate and work this out in a way that works for everybody.”

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