Tense zoning meeting about Gorge amphitheater ends with no answers
The Gorge amphitheater is trying to win local-government approval for an expansion, while nearby farmers and residents argue there already are more than enough problems from concerts there.
Columbia Basin Herald
EPHRATA — Before Live Nation would be allowed to expand The Gorge amphitheater, its manager and Grant County Planning Commission members heard from livid farmers and residents near the rural concert venue.
“I’ve had feces in my yard (from concertgoers), loud music playing until 4:30 in the morning, and I’ve had enough,” Patrick Escure said. He lives and farms less than five miles from the venue. “In fact, we’ve had enough,” he said as about a dozen people standing behind him applauded during a Comprehensive Planning Amendment meeting Wednesday night at the County Courthouse.
Planning-commission members adjourned the meeting at about 11:20 p.m., without recommending whether to allow the venue to expand.
Chairman Bill Bailey said the commission would decide the issue during an Aug. 6 meeting.
The Grant County Planning Department recommended allowing The Gorge to expand with zoning that would put in place tighter controls over where the facility would build, what type of sewer facilities it would have and what types of protections would be offered to neighbors.
Residents of nearby Sunland Estates rejected the notion that allowing for more campsites, stage space, retail stores and outdoor cinema would alleviate the current problems of young, scantily clad concertgoers trespassing and littering.
“You’ve built a candy store, and the kids in the store are just running amok. Now you’re going to give them a bigger candy store? That just doesn’t make sense,” Sunland resident Jack Kling said. Kling said his neighbors’ driveways have been blocked by The Gorge patrons and garbage left in their yards. He said it could take up to two hours to come and go from his neighborhood during concert events.
“It’s just not working,” he said. He added that sheriff’s deputies are unwilling to help and that Live Nation’s crowd and parking specialists aren’t doing much, either.
County Planning Director Damien Hooper said after the meeting that The Gorge is in compliance with current conditional-use permits.
“I have been around The Gorge’s land-use permits clear back to the late ’90s, and the concerns raised then are similar in nature to those we heard (during the meeting),” he said. “Despite efforts over time to have The Gorge operators address issues, new issues come up — sometimes it’s a new version of an old problem — and then there are stretches of time where there aren’t any concerns or complaints made.”