Buck Hill concert plan faces obstacles

David Solner, left, and Don McClure stood atop Buck Hill in October 2015 after announcing their purchase of the business. The owners’ plan to further diversify the ski and snowboarding business by adding outdoor concerts faces obstacles. (File photo by John Gessner)

Council vote scheduled Tuesday

Buck Hill, in a continuing effort to diversify its core skiing and snowboarding business, wants to add outdoor concerts.Buck Hill, in a continuing effort to diversify its core skiing and snowboarding business, wants to add outdoor concerts.

But its proposal to use the hillside as an amphitheater with a stage at the bottom faces obstacles, including opposition from nearby residents and an order to reduce projected concert noise.

Burnsville’s Planning Commission voted 5-0 Monday to recommend approval of the plan. The measure included 13 conditions, including a city staff recommendation that Buck Hill do more noise study and contain music and crowd noise to levels set by the state and city.
Buck Hill and its sound consultant say it isn’t possible, by moving the stage or erecting barriers, to contain the sound to levels set by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and city code.

The City Council is scheduled to vote on the proposal Tuesday, July 18.

Eleven residents spoke at a public hearing Monday, many expressing fondness for the south Burnsville ski hill west of Interstate 35 that long predated their moving to the area. A few said they support Buck Hill’s plans for concerts, which under the conditions would be limited to six a year with crowds, including workers and volunteers, no larger than 4,999.
But noise and the potential for increased vehicle and foot traffic through their neighborhoods worry many neighbors.

“I totally support Buck Hill’s efforts,” said Joseph Russell, 15345 Greenhaven Drive. “I’ve told them before, ‘Thank you for being a part of our community.’ But this is the wrong idea for the area.”

Andrew Burglund, 435 Stonewood Lane, said Buck Hill has been a good neighbor and applauded the idea of a concert series. But he said he worries about security in his neighborhood.

“I’ve had multiple people trespassing during the ski season,” Burglund said. “I’ve had to ask people to leave my yard during the ski season.”

Plans call for a temporary stage south and west of Buck Hill’s Black Diamond Restaurant. Noise “directly impacts the neighbors to the north,” said a city staff report.

A noise-modeling study commissioned by Buck Hill shows levels of up to 79 decibels at homes to the north that have a direct line of sight to the stage. State noise rules — and Burnsville city code — allow decibel levels of 65 or 60 at residential property lines from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. The conditions call for music to end by 9:30 p.m. and the lights to be out by 10, followed by a 1 a.m. bar and restaurant closing.

Buck Hill’s noise consultant, HDR, recommended the city seek a variance from Minnesota Pollution Control Agency noise rules. City staff says it contacted the agency, which said it doesn’t grant variances. Tim Casey of HDR insisted that there is an agency process for getting a variance. Staff says that if the city allows noise-rule violations, it is responsible for complaints.

Further study should also factor in crowd noise, which HDR didn’t do,  staff said.

Planning commissioners stood firm on requiring more noise study and mitigation.

“There just needs to be more work done on that piece,” Commissioner Daniel Wolter said.
The conditions include no parking less than 30 feet from the north and south property lines, as Buck Hill proposes. The property’s planned unit development requires a 30-foot setback.

Buck Hill’s concert parking plan includes arrangements with Burnsville Center, Celebration Church and Zombie Boardshop to shuttle concertgoers in from their lots.
Commissioners added a condition for a commission review of concert operations after one year if the council approves them.

Don McClure, the longtime general manager and now co-owner of Buck Hill, said concerts are another way to keep the business viable at a time when “aberrant” weather is making its core winter business uncertain.

McClure said he learned about some of the ongoing neighborhood nuisances at a June 8 neighborhood meeting on the concert plan. “We learned some things from that neighborhood meeting. We’re going to take some corrective action,” he said.

McClure and co-owner David Solner, an Apple Valley  architect, bought Buck Hill from the Stone family and other shareholders in 2015. They recently added a year-round Neveplast ski surface. Off-season special events range from running races to mountain biking. The property is also used for vehicle storage by nearby dealerships. Past off-season events included a Halloween haunted house and an outdoor market.

In 2005 the council approved a comprehensive plan amendment and rezoning allowing development on unused Buck Hill land north of the ski hill. The council’s goal was to preserve the ski business as an amenity by giving the owners another means of generating income.