LITTLETON — An attempt by organizers of the three-day Riot Fest rock and punk show to turn back a decision by Arapahoe County to deny the event a permit to play in Byers failed before the Zoning Board of Adjustment on Wednesday.

The board voted unanimously to deny Riot Fest's appeal of the July 11 decision by Zoning Administrator Tammy King not to grant the event a temporary use permit.

There was little comment from board members at the dais before casting their votes.

Riot Fest, which features artists like Primus, Rise Against and The Cure, will go on as scheduled Sept. 19-21 at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver — a venue organizers had to scramble to find after they were denied the permit to play May Farms in Byers.

When they announced the new location for this fall's show on July 18, organizers made it clear that they wanted to return to Byers in the future.

Riot Fest's first Colorado appearance took place at May Farms in 2013, which is located about 40 miles east of Denver.


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Organizers can apply again next year to hold the weekend extravaganza in Byers. When asked after the hearing what he planned to do about a 2015 show in Colorado, Riot Fest director Max Wagner said a statement would be coming from Riot Fest "shortly."

Riot Fest attorney Adam Stapen argued before the board Wednesday that King's ruling was "moot" because it was made prematurely. He said she issued her denial before she had received feedback from various Arapahoe County agencies — including engineering and fire protection — about whether they could properly manage an event that could bring 17,000 people to the tiny farming town.

"I submit to you that the zoning administrator by your statutes had an obligation to first have all the referrals in," he said. "That did not happen."

Wagner told the board that he was in the midst of discussing with the county ways to address some of the concerns that had been brought up about the festival when the denial was issued.

He said he was simply requesting "equal treatment under the law."

But King, who cited traffic, noise and safety concerns in her denial last month, countered that there was little Riot Fest could do to blunt the impacts from such a large undertaking.

"I felt there wasn't a way to mitigate the impacts (neighbors) spoke about with an event of this size," she said.

The audience at the hearing, most of whom traveled to the county's administration building in Littleton from Byers and surrounding towns, was split on the wisdom of bringing Riot Fest to May Farms.

Opponents talked about nightmare traffic, open drug use and window-rattling noise levels caused by the festival. Supporters said detractors were exaggerating the problems and lauded Riot Fest for giving a boost to Byers' languid economy.

Vicki Allen, of Byers, said she and her neighbors chose to live on the eastern plains because of its quiet and serene setting and that a multi-day punk and rock show was not compatible with their rural lifestyle.

"Our county roads were not built to accommodate the traffic of thousands," she said.

But Heidi Tufto, also a Byers resident, said she had spent more time stuck behind farm equipment than in Riot Fest traffic. And she questioned just how bothersome the noise level was from the show.

"I have 200 animals on my property and there was no impact to them," she said.

John Aguilar: 303-954-1695, jaguilar@denverpost.com or twitter.com/abuvthefold