AZTEC – San Juan County got a taste of what it is like to be a music festival location this summer as Tico Time hosted a summer concert series. While guests enjoyed themselves, neighboring residents have not had the best summer.
Judy and Lynn Bryson, longtime residents of San Juan County, have lived in their home for 41 years. Now, they feel like their way of life is threatened, as the tranquil peace of their rural neighborhood has been interrupted by music that carries through the valley of the canyon.
“Ever since Tico Time started up their concert venue with their festivals every other weekend, it’s become a living hell,” Judy Bryson said.
Tico Time is an RV and camping river resort between Aztec and Durango, about six-tenths of a mile south of the Colorado border. The hospitality manager for the resort, Tammie Carter, said the property has 94 acres on the Animas River, with multiple ponds, slides, paddleboards and zip lines. Tent, RV and car camping is also offered.
“We’ve given a lot of people a way to get back outdoors, a way to play in the water and have the access to it,” Carter said.
The family-friendly resort has been open for two years, but because of COVID-19, this was the first year the resort featured special event weekends, including an electronic dance music festival, a reggae festival, a sober fest and Christian retreat.
But neighbors say the celebrations are too loud.
“The music starts out at about 10 during the day, and it’s not so bad during the day, but as the day progresses, it just gets louder and louder and louder as people get more drunk or whatever they’re doing over there,” Judy Bryson said.
The Brysons say they have tried to get ahold of the owner multiple times to ask that something be done about the noise, but nothing changes.
Carter at Tico Time said the owner has installed noise-reducing banners and buffers behind the stage to absorb reverb, limited music volumes at certain times and moved up the fireworks display to an earlier time.
“The owner has done a lot to try and change and be accommodating but still run his business,” Carter said. “... He’s really tried to work through it throughout the summer to reduce the number of negative interactions that we don’t want.”
Bryson said she and her husband have brought up their concerns with county commissioners countless times, including after a concert in May that “was so loud that there were complaints all the way into La Plata County.”
Bryson said the county is capable of making a noise ordinance, but she suspects the revenue brought into the county from Tico Time is a reason nothing has been done.
“We can’t get any kind of satisfaction,” Bryson said.
County Manager Mike Stark said a noise ordinance would be jumping the gun and could set a precedent for neighbors turning on neighbors. A noise ordinance could lead to other “unintended consequences,” such as a neighbor filing a complaint against another neighbor for a lawn mower that is too loud.
Instead, because it is about the end of Tico Time’s peak season, Stark said the county will study the issue.
“This gives us a really good opportunity heading into the winter months to really study this matter further,” Stark said. “And if the commission would like to move forward with some type of noise ordinance, we could make sure that we get that right and we don’t get any unintended consequences that would cause only more disputes and concern.”
Bryson is asking Tico Time to be more considerate.
“All we’re asking, because we know it’s not going away – all we want is to cut down the noise,” Bryson said. “You know when you’re lying in bed at 2 in the morning and you’ve got the air conditioner on, you’ve got ear plugs and your pillow over your head trying to drown out the noise – we don’t need to live like that.”
Robert and Grace Shindledecker, neighbors of the Brysons, have owned their property for 39 years. But because of recent issues with Tico Time, they have decided to sell their property.
“We had some people who (were) ready to buy the place, they were ready to put money down, make an offer,” Robert Shindledecker said. “They went over to talk to Tico Time, and Tico Time told them how much noise they make and ‘We can put up to 10,000 people out there.’ So the people backed out.”
The Shindledeckers own property into the river and right across from what the neighbors called “primitive camping,” or where people would tent camp. The issue with that, Robert Shindledecker said, was some trespassing involving defecation on his yard, and nudity.
“Last gal I seen, last Tuesday, I was sitting on the couch and I watched her come off the bank over there, she walked on out and took her wrap off, got naked,” Shindledecker said. “So I run down there trying to get a picture of her and I couldn’t get my damn camera to work fast enough.”
Shindledecker said the woman yelled at him, telling him to leave the area, which he found funny because he was on his property.
Carter, with Tico Time, said the staff members and owners at the resort are aware of some nudity.
“Unfortunately, we did have nudity on the property at our last music festival,” she said. “This was not something that we allowed, and we had in fact encouraged people to bring their cute swimsuits, bring trunks, bring whatever you want to be seen in because we do not allow nudity.”
She added staff members had a meeting about it and have since started to patrol for it.
“We’re doing everything in our power to eliminate that from happening,” Carter said.
Shindledecker said he and his neighbors feel like their rural way of life has been threatened. But county manager Stark said one of the biggest perks of rural living is the scarcity of government regulations and zoning.
“That’s one reason we lack zoning, (the residents) have told us before, when we attempted to put such an initiative forth, that ‘Hey, listen, we moved out to the county because we have a low tolerance for regulation, we don’t want a lot of regulation, we don’t want more government in our lives than there has to be, we prefer our elbow space, and we can do with it what we want,’” Stark said.
Carter said she was speaking on her own behalf, apart from Tico Time, when she said she understands people might be upset.
“I understand that people want a rural lifestyle and that’s the choice that they made by being here and that we are interrupting that, but we are trying to start a business that is bringing a lot of interest to the area,” Carter said. “It’s bringing a lot of families to the area and hopefully in the long run, revitalizing not only this area, but bringing more into Aztec, and more into the entire Four Corners region.”
Stark said his hope is Tico Time will be the good neighbor it says it wants to be, but if it can’t, he said, “the county commission would stand ready to intervene if necessary, but we want time to study the appropriate regulation.”
Meanwhile, Carter said she understands the small-town vibe and hopes everyone can come to some sort of agreement.
“I understand that we’re disturbing the neighbors,” Carter said. “I came from a small town and I grew up in the country, so I understand the rural lifestyle. I just hope that we can come to something that’s agreeable to everybody and that Tico Time is able to be a successful music venue as well as RV park and be good with all of the neighbors. All of them.”
Stark said the presence of Tico Time in San Juan County has been positive and has brought some entertainment to the county.
“That’s the type of economic diversity that we’re working on,” Stark said. “Outdoor recreation is a strategic initiative for the commission, and having facilities like this go hand in glove.”
But those living closest to Tico Time say there is no value in it for them.
“Our property values are dropping to hell, and as far as the people that live around here, there’s no benefit to us whatsoever,” Bryson said.
Stark says the vacation spot might be an enticement for people to move to the area.
“It helps to bring in folks from outside of our area to see all the wonderful things that those of us that live here know that we have to offer,” Stark said. “Maybe their visit to Tico Time turns into permanent residency in the Four Corners, and that would be great for all of us.”