Bonner County officials are losing patience with a would-be concert promoter who is touting a music festival at his 100-acre Cocolalla ranch.
Les Kuty has advertised and is selling tickets for three weekends of shows in his hayfield off U.S. Highway 95 south of Sandpoint. The acts are supposed to include Ricky Skaggs, Doug Kershaw and possibly Willie Nelson, according to Kuty’s advertisement on fliers.
The problem is Kuty never has applied for a permit to hold a major concert, said county civil attorney John Topp. That means Kuty has no approved plans for controlling stop-and-go traffic along Highway 95 or for handling a crowd of concertgoers and their human waste.
Topp said the local Fire Department, state Transportation Department and Panhandle Health District all have called with concerns about the shows and possible throngs of people.
Topp plans to shut down the shows and will ask a judge for a formal injunction against Kuty.
Kuty insists he doesn’t need a permit, calling county officials “brain dead.” During a discussion about the concerts with Topp a week ago, Kuty became so hostile a secretary pushed her panic button to call in the SWAT team.
“He threw a fit. He was screaming and yelling,” Topp said. “Quite frankly if he would have followed the process I don’t think there would be a problem.”
The county has prepared a lawsuit to try to stop Kuty until he complies with the permit process. The law says any event that includes over 400 people needs a special use permit. Kuty told county officials he expected between 2,000-4,000 people for the shows.
After he received a letter explaining the permit process, he came back and said he only expected 400 or fewer concertgoers.
“What he did was read the ordinance and try to argue he didn’t need to go through the permit process because he expects less than 400 people now,” Topp said.
Kuty claims the county is involved in a conspiracy against him. He called Topp and other county officials “loose cannons that have their mouths detached from their brains.”
“They have no business getting an injunction anymore than the man in the moon,” Kuty said. “I have broken no laws and I have no intention of breaking any laws.”
Topp and others have even questioned whether some of the advertised performers are actually booked to play. On his flier, Kuty printed a disclaimer saying they can provide “comparable substitute entertainment” in case the scheduled act is unable to appear.
Kuty wouldn’t say who was going to perform or if his flier was accurate. A woman who answered the telephone at the number where Kuty is selling concert tickets said that Ricky Skaggs had canceled.
As on the flier, she said 20 other bands were slated to perform on Aug. 16-17 and “a lot” of tickets had been sold.
“My only concern is he gets the proper permit,” said county commissioner Dale Van Stone. “If he thought he was going to have that many people out there he needs to get things squared away.”
In 1994, the Festival at Sandpoint used Kuty’s ranch to host its Willie Nelson concert. Festival organizers had to get a permit, provide security, traffic control, clear an area to land a medical helicopter and provide 14 EMTs. The festival also had to keep a fire truck on site and fence off Cocolalla Creek to keep partygoers from relieving themselves in it.
Kuty said he has good intentions. He claimed profits from the concerts would go toward charities, although he declined to say which ones. Van Stone said he was told money was to go to the local animal shelter and the Cub Scouts.
“Last I heard those groups didn’t know anything about it,” Van Stone said. “He’s trying to smooth somebody over here and make it look like he’s a good Samaritan.”
, DataTimes MEMO: IDAHO HEADLINE: County plans to stop Cocolalla concerts
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