Proposed Peach Valley Park draws community ire, interest
Garfield County commissioners will get their first look today at the proposed Peach Valley River Park near Silt, a new music festival venue that has received support for its potential benefits to the local economy.
But the proposal also comes with its share of criticism from nearby neighbors who are worried about the potential negative impacts.
Last week, an informal community meeting was held in New Castle. Though the meeting generated a lot of curiosity with some 20 people in attendance, as is clear in the documents submitted to the commissioners, many remain skeptical of the overall vision.
At the Dec. 14 meeting, New Castle resident Jamie Roth expressed her concern that the project keeps changing.
“It’s a moving target. … I just don’t know where it’s going to land,” she said.
Like many in attendance, Roth said she felt the proposal was at the very least unique; just too many moving parts, she said.
Before the commissioners today is a request to change the land use on the property, approximately 75 acres of rural land along the Colorado River between Silt and New Castle, from agricultural to a “public gathering” within the county’s land-use designations.
What would become known as the Peach Valley River Park Festival could potentially draw 2,000 to 3,000 attendees during Memorial Day weekend in 2018, applicant Jason Segal said. For the remainder of the year, it would be utilized as a park.
Segal sees the festival as a potential economic driver for the entire community. With little public river access from New Castle to Rifle, it could become “a gem of a park” for the entire community, he told those in attendance at the community meeting.
The 2018 festival would serve as a test for the event site, Segal said, with the ultimate goal of having closer to 10,000 people for three-day music festivals in the fall and spring both. The festival grounds would include camping, a vendor village and a stage, according to documents submitted with the proposal.
Tumbleweed Productions President Joe Lang, who is partnering with Segal on the project, helped build the Jazz Aspen Snowmass festival for 16 years from 1996-2011. He said the long-term vision for the Peach Valley venue will take time to establish.
“You have to take developmental steps to make a project that the community is comfortable with,” Lang said.
More information on the design and park proposal can be found at http://www.garfield-county.com/board-commissioners/meetings in the agenda for Monday’s meeting.
The application packet includes over 30 exhibits, most of which are personal letters from New Castle residents and local officials, some supporting it, others against it, and many just asking additional questions.
“I have serious concerns about the lack of public awareness about this proposal, as well as about impacts to wildlife, nature, traffic, safety and noise,” wrote long-time Peach Valley resident Kimberlie Chenoweth in a Post Independent letter to the editor on Dec. 12.
“Our local community must have a real opportunity to review all the information and the chance for informed comment,” she writes. “As it stands now, I am firmly opposed to this large event venue.”
Chenoweth would not be the first or last New Castle resident to have concerns over how the community found out about the proposal.
In a letter submitted to the commissioners on Nov. 29, Martha Ellen Moulton expressed her strong objections to the project.
“Knowing my property and home would be within 50 yards of the intended festival stage, I will undoubtedly be the most negatively impacted adjacent landowner,” she wrote.
She was disappointed to not have been contacted or asked her input sooner.
“There were many opportunities for the Laidlaws and the Segal Development Group to be neighborly and share their intentions for the parcel, but they did not,” Moulton continued. “My confidence has been shaken that the prospective buyers will be good neighbors in the future.”
She also worried that, if the application is approved, Segal will be proposing more concert dates and public amenities in the future.
other option is houses
In response to Moulton’s letter, Segal said that the plan is to “make the community a better place to live, work and recreate.” He argued that the plan is better than a developer coming in and putting up dozens of houses.
Segal added that plans for a public park began in 2014, and said he wishes “for all involved to see the benefit of this beautiful property becoming the foremost natural park on the Western Slope, staving the direction of a 39-100 home subdivision next door to your family ranch.”
Silt Community Development Director Janet Aluise said the town had no objection to the proposal, and Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association President and CEO Marianne Virgili wrote a letter in support of the project.
New Castle town officials were less supportive.
“Based on the information available in this application and from Mr. Segal’s presentation to the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission, and the lack of conformity to town considerations for this area, it is staff’s recommendation that the applicant’s proposal, as presented, is not in the best interest of the town,” states a letter to the commissioners from the New Castle Building, Planning and Code Administration Department.
Taylor Elm, Colorado Parks and Wildlife land-use specialist for the Northwest Region, indicated in another letter that the agency does not have any concerns with the proposed festival/public events use. He also said he was encouraged with efforts to provide public access along that stretch of river.
The proposal is the third item on the commissioners’ public hearing agenda on Monday, which will begin sometime after 1 p.m. The meeting will be held in the commissioners meeting room in the County Administration Building in Glenwood Springs.