Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Doubt cast on proposed MASSV venue

But organizers say they still hope to hold event

Express Staff Writer

Performers and laser lights entertain the crowds at the 2013 MASSV event in Ketchum. Express file photo

     A plan to hold a third MASSV music festival on a 700-acre farm southwest of Bellevue this summer was dimmed considerably Tuesday following a public hearing before the Blaine County commissioners.

     For the past two years, Music and Arts Showcase Sun Valley has brought an eclectic mix of music, light shows and performance art to the valley, last year at the River Run base area and in 2012 on the Simplot lot in Ketchum. But noise complaints and space limitations prompted a search for a new venue this year.

     In February, the Van Der Meulen family offered their Glendale Farm on Costoff Road as a potential site for an event proposed for July 25-26. However, the rural location posed its own problems, primarily compliance with a county Public Assemblies ordinance, which requires organizers to obtain a license for any public event expected to draw more than 750 people.

     In a memo dated March 20, Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Tim Graves told the commissioners that the MASSV application contained at least 15 points of noncompliance with the ordinance. Those included:

  • Exceeding the ordinance’s 3,500-person maximum. Organizers stated they plan to sell 5,000 tickets, far more than last year’s sales of 3,200.
  • Proposing a site far beyond the two-mile maximum from Sun Valley, Ketchum or Hailey. During the hearing Tuesday, county planner Kathy Grotto said the farm is nine miles from the Wood River Fire & Rescue station in Hailey.
  • Exceeding the ordinance’s 24-hour event duration limit by 48 hours.
  • Presenting an unclear security plan.

     In a memo dated April 1, Wood River Fire & Rescue Chief Bart Lassman presented a list of 10 conditions that the Fire District would require organizers to meet before it could approve the event.

     On Tuesday, Sheriff Gene Ramsey said he had up to 13 points of concern regarding the proposed event. He said those were all addressed during a meeting he had with organizers, but the solutions arrived at had not yet been put on paper.

     MASSV Holdings LLC co-owners Brent Russell and Derrick Rolph told the commissioners that they had provided about as much detail as they could on their application given the fact that they won’t know how many participants to expect until much closer to the date of the event.

     The Public Assemblies ordinance allows the commissioners to waive any of its restrictions if they find that doing so will not jeopardize the health, safety and welfare of the community. However, two of the three commissioners said they thought the application would require too many waivers to be acceptable.

     “I think that what you’re trying to do for the community on an ongoing basis is wonderful,” Commissioner Larry Schoen said. “I want MASSV to succeed, but what you’re proposing to us doesn’t enable me to say yes.”

     Schoen said the scale of the event and the limited access on Glendale and Costoff roads posed problems “that are pretty insurmountable to me.”

     Commissioner Angenie McCleary said she is willing to try to work through the details of the application at another hearing, but expressed skepticism that such a wide gap between the level of detail currently proposed and what is required by the ordinance could be bridged.

     Only Commissioner Jacob Greenberg appeared interested in pursuing the matter, saying he was willing to provide county Land Use Department staff with a list of points on which he felt the application was lacking.

     However, organizers appeared able to read the writing on the wall. After being told by Schoen that they deserve an honest response, Russell said, “That’s what we’re asking for since we’re in a go, no-go situation.”

     Schoen said the door remained open to the organizers to further solidify their proposal, and the commissioners unanimously agreed to discuss with county staff the deficiencies in the application and provide that information to Russell and Rolph by the end of the week.

     In an interview following the meeting, the two organizers said they were unsure of their next steps regarding the current application.

     “We’ve got to digest everything that’s happened here and decide whether to move forward,” Rolph said.

     However, they said they plan to hold a MASSV event somewhere in the area this summer, one way or another.

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