Crank up the vol­ume? Neigh­bors beg to dif­fer

Three days of con­certs could draw 40,000 fans to Over­land Park Golf Course next year

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Jon Murray

Start­ing next year, rock bands and other music acts could take up res­i­dence for a long week­end each Septem­ber on Den­ver’s old­est golf course, blast­ing per­for­mances from a main stage on the driv­ing range for tens of thou­sands of cheer­ing fans.

He­lene Orr and Rob Lovell both live less than a block be­hind that stage, across the street from Over­land Park Golf Course. They have very dif­fer­ent vi­sions about how New York City-based Su­per­fly Productions’ pro­posed three-day music fes­ti­val — which pro­mot­ers hope will draw 30,000 to 40,000 fans a day in the first year — might af­fect the neigh­bor­hood.

Orr, to put it sim­ply, senses a dis­as­ter in the mak­ing.

“It was never re­ally about mak­ing sure the neigh­bor­hood had a say,” the 35-year neigh­bor­hood res­i­dent sug­gested about city of­fi­cials’ re­view of the plans. She lamented: “I will never have a quiet fall in my home again.”

But Lovell, who moved in five years ago on West Jewell Av­enue, views the fes­ti­val as the lat­est ex­cit­ing de­vel­op­ment in south Den­ver, build­ing on the open­ing Thurs­day of the

Levitt Pavil­ion out­door con­cert venue at nearby Ruby Hill Park. He’s liked what he’s heard from the fes­ti­val pro­moter’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

“I lis­tened to them lay out quite a bit of plans of how they’re go­ing to deal with the chal­lenges,” he said, “and I heard noth­ing that would dampen my ini­tial en­thu­si­asm for it.”

On Mon­day, Su­per­fly’s 42-page con­tract for use of the golf course lands in the City Coun­cil for a de­ci­sion. Its mem­bers will hear that night from some of the fes­ti­val pro­posal’s many vo­cal sup­port­ers and op­po­nents dur­ing a one-hour pub­lic hear­ing; they could vote Mon­day but prob­a­bly will wait a week, some said.

If it ap­proves Su­per­fly’s lease agree­ment, the coun­cil will seal Den­ver’s five-year com­mit­ment for a fourstage event that could close the golf course for five weeks af­ter La­bor Day each year — in­clud­ing for setup and tear-down of the fes­ti­val — and raise money for city cof­fers, mu­nic­i­pal golf cour­ses and a com­mu­nity im­prove­ment fund. Un­less Su­per­fly breaches the terms, re­sult­ing in can­cel­la­tion, the fes­ti­val could stick around even longer.

The coun­cil’s con­sid­er­a­tion fol­lows more than seven months of com­mu­nity de­bate that has pro­duced deep splits around Over­land Park.

Dis­agree­ments have been sharpest in Orr and Lovell’s area — in seven blocks that are just south of the golf course that are the only res­i­den­tial area not buffered from the fu­ture fes­ti­val grounds by the South Platte River or by Santa Fe Drive and the rail­road tracks.

Where Lovell sees care­ful plans tak­ing shape that will blunt the fes­ti­val’s blee­dover ef­fects on the neigh­bor­hood, Orr senses empty prom­ises that Su­per­fly and its part­ners can’t pos­si­bly de­liver. That’s de­spite as­sur­ances given to neigh­bors by the Den­ver Of­fice of Spe­cial Events and the Parks and Re­cre­ation depart­ment that they will hold Su­per­fly to its com­mit­ments, in­clud­ing sub­mit­ting a dozen or so lo­gis­ti­cal plans ahead of each year’s event.

Of­fi­cials also prom­ise that sound mon­i­tor­ing will hap­pen to en­sure Su­per­fly fol­lows the city’s noise or­di­nance.

The con­tract re­quires Su­per­fly to pay $200,000 in rent for use of the course and $90,000 for land­scap­ing work. Greens and tee boxes, along with nat­u­ral ar­eas on the course, must be fenced off.

Other terms re­quire Su­per­fly to pay $25,000 to fund dis­counts at other city cour­ses for Over­land golfers who are dis­placed dur­ing the clo­sure.

The real money — $1 mil­lion to $2 mil­lion or more — could come from the city’s col­lec­tion of its 10 per­cent ticket tax. Su­per­fly also will con­trib­ute $2 per ticket to the city’s Golf En­ter­prise Fund, ben­e­fit­ing all golf cour­ses, and $1 per ticket to the com­mu­nity fund, which Su­per­fly co-founder Rick Far­man says will col­lect “five to six fig­ures” each year.

The fes­ti­val would be able to run from noon to 10 p.m., with pos­si­ble dates on the sec­ond or third week­end each Septem­ber.

Su­per­fly’s fes­ti­val would put Den­ver on the na­tional music fes­ti­val map with a re­cur­ring event that could grow to draw a max­i­mum 80,000 at­ten­dees a day, per the con­tract.

The com­pany next month will put on the 10th Out­side Lands fes­ti­val in San Fran­cisco’s Golden Gate Park, a set­ting near neigh­bor­hoods that Far­man sees as sim­i­lar to Over­land Park — though Den­ver’s 139-acre golf course is about one-sev­enth the size. Su­per­fly also pro­duces the 15-year-old Bon­na­roo Music and Arts Fes­ti­val in ru­ral Ten­nessee. Den­ver’s event is among a hand­ful of new fes­ti­vals Su­per­fly is try­ing to launch.

Far­man, the Su­per­fly co­founder, said Out­side Lands’ run hasn’t been with­out neigh­bor­hood hic­cups.

“We’re sur­rounded by sig­nif­i­cant neigh­bor­hoods, and we’ve been able to fig­ure out how to en­gi­neer all these things in a way that has min­i­mal im­pact,” he said. “No one should tell you that there’s go­ing to be no im­pact — that’s part of what liv­ing in an ur­ban en­vi­ron­ment is about.”

But he said Su­per­fly should be judged based on how it ad­dresses chal­lenges that arise.

Sur­veys and other out­reach by city of­fi­cials sug­gest large num­bers of peo­ple are sup­port­ive in the wider city or at least felt Su­per­fly’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives, in­clud­ing lo­cal event pro­ducer David Ehrlich, ad­dressed their con­cerns dur­ing meet­ings.

Op­po­si­tion fo­cuses on en­vi­ron­ment, park use

But there’s also a healthy op­po­si­tion that has to risen to op­pose the fes­ti­val based on wor­ries about noise, en­vi­ron­men­tal and wildlife im­pact, and lo­gis­ti­cal chal­lenges.

For Orr and some oth­ers, there’s also strong philo­soph­i­cal dis­agree­ment that the event would ever be ap­pro­pri­ate for park­land, even on a golf course, and they have raised le­gal con­cerns.

In the im­me­di­ate area next to the course, Lovell is among just a hand­ful of vo­cal sup­port­ers. Orr came armed to a coun­cil com­mit­tee meet­ing June 20 with a map of the area’s 126 homes and sug­gested that pe­ti­tion can­vass­ing by her and other op­po­nents had ral­lied most res­i­dents there against the fes­ti­val.

She held the map aloft, and most of the homes were shaded green, sig­ni­fy­ing op­po­si­tion. Only a hand­ful were pink to in­di­cate sup­port.

“We were as­sured re­peat­edly through­out this process … that if the neigh­bor­hood didn’t want this, it wouldn’t hap­pen,” Orr wrote Thurs­day in an email to coun­cil mem­bers. “Yet we are here. Why is that?”

Lau­rie K. Paulson, who also lives on Jewell across from the golf course, was among op­po­nents who said city ef­forts to no­tify res­i­dents about the fes­ti­val pro­posal and com­mu­nity meet­ings — fo­cused largely on on­line out­reach as well as some fliers — missed some el­derly res­i­dents and Span­ish-speak­ers, who heard about it first from the pe­ti­tion cir­cu­la­tors.

For Paulson, health con­cerns are at the top of her mind, be­cause she says she has a de­gen­er­a­tive dis­ease and has a ser­vice dog. She wor­ries about noise from the fes­ti­val, which she com­pared to hav­ing “Wood­stock in your back­yard.”

“What am I sup­posed to do? Am I sup­posed to se­date my ser­vice dog when all of this com­mo­tion is go­ing on?” she said. “It kind of de­feats the pur­pose.”

There are in­flu­en­tial voices in sup­port of the fes­ti­val, in­clud­ing the Over­land Park Neigh­bor­hood As­so­ci­a­tion’s lead­er­ship. Among them is sec­re­tary Terry Pasqua, who lives a stone’s throw from the course.

There’s also the pos­si­bil­ity that, as Lovell and other sug­gest, op­po­nents are sim­ply more pas­sion­ate about speak­ing up than quiet sup­port­ers.

Orr and oth­ers por­tray city of­fi­cials, in­clud­ing the area’s coun­cil­man, Jolon Clark, as ap­pear­ing to work on Su­per­fly’s be­half to rally sup­port. But Mara Owen, the as­so­ci­a­tion’s pres­i­dent, cred­its of­fi­cials and Su­per­fly for reach­ing out early and an­swer­ing neigh­bors’ ques­tions and con­cerns quickly.

Owen wants to see the fes­ti­val hap­pen be­cause it would open Over­land Park to more peo­ple.

“We ac­tu­ally would have utiliza­tion of pre­vi­ously in­ac­ces­si­ble park land for (most) peo­ple in our neigh­bor­hood and in Den­ver. Not many peo­ple in our neigh­bor­hood ac­tu­ally golf,” said Owen, who lives far­ther south­east of the course, closer to Broad­way. “We have this beau­ti­ful piece of land that says ‘No tres­pass­ing’ on it,’ un­less vis­i­tors pay to play golf.

City would re­quire sev­eral plans from Su­per­fly

City of­fi­cials have said they will closely scru­ti­nize the sev­eral plans re­quired of Su­per­fly, cov­er­ing ev­ery­thing from se­cu­rity to pre­vent­ing park­ing in the neigh­bor­hoods to restor­ing the golf course’s turf con­di­tion af­ter the event. Su­per­fly also plans to have a 24-hour hot­line res­i­dents can call to re­port prob­lems.

Su­per­fly and city of­fi­cials aim to make it a car-free fes­ti­val, with music fans ar­riv­ing via bike, shut­tles from park­ing lots in central Den­ver and light rail to the Evans Sta­tion. Tran­sit rid­ers then would trek to en­trances on the north side of the golf course, away from im­me­di­ate neigh­bor­hoods, though there are pedes­trian ac­cess is­sues to over­come. A pro­posed $937 mil­lion bond pack­age this year in­cludes a pedes­trian bridge that would help ad­dress those is­sues, but not in time for the first fes­ti­val.

The or­ga­niz­ers, which at one point in­cluded AEG Live, first reached out to parks of­fi­cials in April 2016. Months be­fore they and Clark were ready to start con­tact­ing neigh­bor­hood groups that fall, of­fi­cials said, they sent a del­e­ga­tion to Out­side Lands in Au­gust to vet Su­per­fly.

The group, which in­cluded the parks main­te­nance direc­tor, viewed a cou­ple days of setup and talked to coun­ter­parts in San Fran­cisco city gov­ern­ment.

“All across the board, every­body gave ab­so­lutely great ref­er­ences,” re­called Fred Weiss, Parks and Rec’s direc­tor of fi­nance and ad­min­is­tra­tion.

The fi­nal ver­sion of the con­tract came out Tues­day, and coun­cil mem­bers have said they won’t nec­es­sar­ily rush to ap­prove it.

“My po­si­tion from the be­gin­ning,” Coun­cil­man Paul Kash­mann said, “has been that for (the fes­ti­val) to take place, I think the neigh­bor­hood needs to be bet­ter for be­ing there than if it didn’t take place.”

The coun­cil is set to meet and have the pub­lic hear­ing on the fes­ti­val pro­posal at 5:30 p.m. Mon­day in its fourth-floor cham­bers in the City and County Build­ing.

Gabriel Scar­lett, The Den­ver Post

He­lene Orr lives across the street from the pub­lic Over­land Park Golf Course and op­poses the up­com­ing music fes­ti­val that is ex­pected to bring in tens of thou­sands of lis­ten­ers next sum­mer.

Gabriel Scar­lett, The Den­ver Post

He­lene Orr is not con­vinced that pro­mot­ers’ prom­ises about a pro­posed music fes­ti­val at a nearby golf course will be ful­filled.

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