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County pulls plug on rodeo, concert venue in southern Tippecanoe County
Questions of noise and bias surface as owner tried to bring venue he opened in 2021 into compliance. Plus, the early vote tallies before polls open for Tuesday’s primary election
The plug was effectively pulled for 2022 on a rodeo and concert venue looking to bring big-name Hispanic bands to the southern edge of Tippecanoe County, after county commissioners decided the rural roads weren’t set up to handle thousands of visitors and that neighbors raised valid complaints about the volume pumped out during shows.
Commissioners voted 3-0 Monday morning against a rezoning request that would have been the first step to bringing into compliance a series of rodeos and concerts Benito Munoz started in 2021 at a site called Plaza Rancho Alegra, at County Roads 1300 South and 400 East.
Munoz, who has an auto dealership in Frankfort and once had Tangos night club in Lafayette, told commissioners that he was willing to limit hours, adjust speakers and the sound, and to bring in volunteers to clean trash along two miles of road between his property and the first major intersection at Indiana 28.
Family members and a half-dozen business came to back what Munoz was trying to do with what they called family-friendly events started in 2021. Munoz said he’d bought the 25-acre property in 2021 after attending rodeos at the former Foxton Farms. He told commissioners that he made a mistake by not closely investigating the zoning. Several people who testified Monday hinted of bias against the events geared for a regional Hispanic crowd.
“I don’t see how they could do it, and now we cannot do it,” Munoz said.
Commissioner Tom Murtaugh mentioned that the county had to shut down rodeos Munoz had organized on other southern Tippecanoe County land in 2014, after a lack of parking left visitors to park along the side of county roads. Murtaugh said parking wasn’t the issue at the new site but that complaints about noise and traffic were immediate when rodeos and concerts started in 2021.
“What you’re trying to do is admirable,” Murtaugh said. “But as neighbors point out, this is not the right spot.”
Commissioner Tracy Brown said he’d been hoping Munoz and neighbors might have found some middle ground after two contentious Area Plan Commission meetings in March and April, before coming to the three-member commissioners board for a final say.
“I’m not sure that’s possible, given what you’re trying to accomplish here,” Brown said.
Munoz’s request Monday would have rezoned the land from an AA designation – reserved for prime agricultural land – to a more general A (agricultural) designation. The A zoning would have allowed Munoz to go to the county’s Board of Zoning Appeals to get a special exception for the necessary permissions for large events.
Several people asked commissioners to take care of the zoning and let the rest play out with the Board of Zoning Appeals. Murtaugh said after the vote that he didn’t want to leave that decision to unelected BZA members, preferring to take the accountability for the decision with the elected commissioners.
Neighbors told commissioners that they were surprised by the traffic and volume from the concerts when they started last summer. Several said they’d moved far enough from Lafayette that they thought they could expect the quiet of rural life, not window-rattling bass late into a Sunday night.
Matt Bowers said he wasn’t upset with Munoz, and the only difference between the rodeos held at Foxton Farms and the ones at Plaza Rancho Alegra was the concert venue. He said it had nothing to do with the type of music or the fans it attracted.
“If they could raise Eddie Van Halen from the dead and bring him out for a concert, it wouldn’t matter,” Bowers said. “Even if I’m a big Van Halen fan, I don’t want Van Halen in my backyard eight weekends a summer.”
Bowers compared the 25-acre property – where Munoz suggested he might one day build facilities to handle 5,000 people – to the 160-acre property that includes the 1,500-seat Tippecanoe County amphitheater. He told commissioners the land in southern Tippecanoe County wasn’t ready for those kind of crowds.
“We welcome Mr. Munoz as a neighbor, but not as a music producer,” Ted Springer, who lives along Indiana 28, said. “It's unfortunate that as a seasoned property owner, he did not do his due diligence to check for zoning restrictions before he bought his land. All this could have been avoided. But his neighbors should not suffer for his mistake.”
What’s Munoz going to do next?
“I guess nothing,” Munoz said. “I try to follow the rules. There’s nothing I can do. … We’re going to look at taking it somewhere else. We’ll find somewhere and just move it. They don’t want the money. They have enough money, I guess.”
Neighboring Clinton County is considering plans for a venue that could accommodate rodeos and concerts. Shan Sheridan, Clinton County Chamber of Commerce executive director, told county officials in April that that was in the works. Monday morning, after the county commissioner vote, Sheridan said Clinton County officials were meeting later this week to discuss the options.
Munoz said that would be an option – a year from now, at the earliest. He said it would be more expensive for him to use, too. Meanwhile, he said he has about $100,000 invested into six events for 2022.
“I’m not here to fight with nobody,” Munoz said. “I’m here to do something good for Lafayette.”
POLLS OPEN AT 6 A.M. TUESDAY
As of noon Monday, when early polls closed in this primary season, 2,199 people had voted in Tippecanoe County. We’ll see how many turn on Tuesday, when voters set the major party ballots for the November election in congressional, General Assembly, assorted county and township seats, precinct committee positions and delegates to the state party conventions.
Here are a few things to know:
On ballots: To see which races will be on your ballot, go to www.indianavoters.com. Voters may ask for either a Democratic or Republican ballot at the polling place.
Where to vote on Election Day: Polls will be open 6 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday. Voters in Tippecanoe County may vote at any polling place in the county. Voters should bring a valid ID. Here’s where polling places will be.
Eastside Assembly of God Church, 6121 E. County Road 50 South
Evangelical Covenant Church, 3600 S. Ninth St.
Faith East Community Center, 5526 Indiana 26 East
Lafayette City Hall, 20 N. Sixth St.
Lafayette Fire Station No. 5, 750 N. Creasy Lane
Northend Community Center, 2000 Elmwood Ave.
River City Community Center, 2842 Old U.S. 231
Tippecanoe County 4-H Fairgrounds, 1010 Teal Road
West Lafayette City Hall, 222 N. Chauncey Ave.
Faith West Community Center, 1920 Northwestern Ave.
Krach Leadership Center, 1198 Third St.
Rest of the county:
Battle Ground Fire Station, 112 North St.
Clarks Hill Christian Church, 9510 Pearl St., Clarks Hill
Dayton United Methodist Church, 7201 Wesleyan Drive, Dayton
Tippecanoe Township Fire Station No. 2, 448 W. County Road 650 North
Wabash Township Fire Station, 2899 Klondike Road
Wea Ridge Baptist Church, 1051 E. County Road 430 South
Polling place maps and wait times: The Tippecanoe County clerk and assessor’s office have developed an app that lets you know how many people have voted at a particular site and how long you can expect to wait. Here's the link: Early vote sites wait times.
For more about candidates and their stances: The League of Women Voters of Greater Lafayette compiled a series of Q&As and video interviews with candidates, assembled at www.Vote411.org. Key in your address, pick your party ballot and scan the candidate bios and responses.
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