There are many unknowns and concerns about the impact rock concerts will have on our neighborhood. It is unfortunate that we won't know for sure about many of these until the concerts take place, but once in place it will be too late to reverse. Many of the concerns and questions follow:
• Noise: The audience for rock and country shows like their music loud with a booming bass beat. Music will start at 7 p.m. and continue to nearly midnight at least 20 concerts each summer. During the summer you like to enjoy the outdoors and sound carries long distances as you know from hearing highway noise. Vernon has no noise ordinance so regulations are state DEP regulations, which are more liberal than towns tend to set. TicketNetwork's acoustic tests state that the noise level at the nearest homes will not be heard above highway background news. This is very controversial and difficult to accept. Read TicketNetwork's Acoustic Report.
• Traffic: There will be up to 800 cars arriving in the early evening and departing after midnight. TicketNetwork testified that the exiting traffic might continue to 1:30 a.m. Most of the traffic will likely come and go from I-84 and might back up onto the highway before events when you are coming home. Bolton Road and Tunnel Roads will also be impacted and you know how traffic backs up at the tunnel. Again TicketNetwork's assurance that it will all flow smoothly is being challenged. Read TicketNetwork's Traffic Report.
• Environment: TicketNetwork has worked with the town and a professional engineer to convince town committees the Tankerhoosen watershed will be protected. At its September 22 hearing the Inland Protection Commission approved the application with several stipulations including water quality monitoring for the first two seasons. See Committee Minutes. Some neighbors are unconvinced this will work or be enforced. Read TicketNetwork's Environmental Report.
• Wildlife: The concert site is very near wetlands and the Belding Wildlife Management Area. Efforts are being made at the preserve to attract and protect native species. The entire site is in a designated DEP natural diversity area where threatened species such as the Eastern box turtle, wood turtle, an aquatic shell fish, brown thrasher, and southern bog lemming have been found. Additionally the area is home to turkey, deer, fox and many birds. What will be the effect of noise and additional traffic be on wildlife.
• Light Pollution: The concert venue will require a lot of lights both for the stage and parking areas. There are things that might be done to lessen the impact. How will this affect the view from your deck?
• Alcohol: Those attending concerts will not be permitted to bring alcohol into the grassy seating area, but will be offered alcohol on site. Young people, loud rock music and alcohol will make the other problems worse. There are bound to be fights, traffic accidents and disorderly conduct. These will require on duty police to deal with them. Drugs certainly won't be permitted, but kids will be kids. Remember when you attended rock concerts.
• Influence On Young Teens: Teenage kids in our high schools love the idea of a rock concert site in town. Who wouldn't at 16? Visit our Facebook page to see how they feel. You know they'll find a way to get in. And who else will be there? Who usually attends concerts at The Meadows in Hartford? College students (think Spring weekend at UConn), people in their twenties, kids from gangs? And are they likely to bring recreational drugs? And they want to sell alcohol at the site. As a parent will you be comfortable knowing that is where your teens are spending their weekends? TicketNetwork is promoting this as a family venue. When is the last time your teen wanted you to go with them to a rock concert?
• Character of the Neighborhood: We chose to live in the neighborhood that we do because it offers many things. We're close to the highway and access to Hartford where many of us work yet are able to live in a quiet place with nearby access to scenic roads, parks and hiking trails. This is a very special part of town; a nice place to raise our families or retire to in later years. These things define the character of the neighborhood. Many feel that country-rock concerts most summer weekends are not consistent with the character of the neighborhoods and will change it completely.
• Property Values: Would you buy your property if you knew its proximity to a rock concert site? Will others want it when you are ready to sell? Will you be offered less than you would currently? How much?
• Taxes: They might go up for everyone in town. If more police are required to handle problems and property values go down it means more expense and less income at a time when all towns are tightening their belts. What about new tax income from the concert site? There will be one permanent shed and a temporary bandshell - all else will come down the end of the season. New taxes will be minimal compared to the problems.
• Litter: Concerts, food, alcohol and kids produce litter - lots of it. TicketNetwork has promised to clean up their site promptly after each concert. They will also put up a fence to keep litter from blowing into the Tankerhoosen River that runs right behind the site. But who will clean up Bolton Road, Tunnel Road and the surrounding area? And how effective will they be keeping litter out of the watershed? Will this be another expense for the town?
• Valley Falls Cemetery: The concert site abuts the Valley Falls Cemetery. Does it concern anyone that the peaceful site they buried their loved one will be inundated with loud music? During the summer visitors often stop by in the early evening until dark at 9 p.m. Is the noise appropriate for mourning? Will Vernon have difficulty selling plots and have to develop another site? The cemetery provides access to the brook right behind the sound stage. Will enterprising young people use it as place to sneak into concerts without paying? Or park and party to enjoy the concert free?
• Future Plans: It's the nature of corporations to start small and expand. The application addresses plans for the summer of 2010, but it's likely that TicketNetwork will be back in following years asking for just a little more each time. More concerts per year, more parking, longer hours and who knows what else. They only plan to use 9 of 39 acres next year. There is a covenant in place for tax purposes that requires that much of the site be forested until 2016. Then what? That's a lot of room to expand. TickenNetwork has also made offers to buy a neighbor's large undeveloped property.
• Good Neighbor/Bad Neighbor: In their application and testimony to the PZC TicketNetwork expresses the lengths they have gone to in planning to be a good neighbor. Many of the promises come down to "Trust us." Yet the company has a history of bending or ignoring rules that might be inconvenient. See article in the December 24 Journal Inquirer. It's far easier to apologize than ask for permission. It was not until their December 29, 2009 meeting that the Inland Wetlands Commission withdrew their cease and desist order from a year earlier against TicketNetwork. See Committee Agenda. The concern is that once they have obtained approval TicketNetwork will follow its pattern of ignoring the rules until caught.
• Enforcement: TicketNetwork is making a lot of promises. They promise to keep the noise at certain levels, pick up litter promptly, control alcohol, protect the Tankerhoosen watershed, manage wastewater runoff and finish the concerts on time. Will the town monitor the site or will it be up to the neighbors to do it? The noise regulations are state DEP regulations. With cutbacks in the state budget will inspectors be available to monitor the noise levels?