Haystack neighbors: 'We're not harassers.'


October 16, 2019 | View PDF

Rose Piscopio

Neighbors of Haystack Golf Course protested "the commercialization in our backyards" at opening night of Haystack's Left Hand Bier Garten on Sept. 6. From left: Rex Craig, Cheryl Hendricks, Martin Magill, Kim Magill, Cheryl Craig, Bard Hendricks, and Tony Piscopio.

Brigadoon Glen residents Martin and Kim Magill want to set the record straight about what they term "the commercialization in our backyard."

"We're not harassers," Martin Magill said. "Nothing could be further from the truth."

For more than a dozen years, the pair have lived on Haystack Golf Course's eastern edge, and argue that the increase in noise and traffic from weddings at the 53-year old Niwot landmark have threatened to destroy "the peace and quiet of this beautiful area we live in." Now the pair and 48 other area residents are asking the Boulder County Land Use Department to investigate whether Haystack events should be subject to more oversight.

"This is not the quality of life we enjoyed for the previous 10 years that we've come to expect in our neighborhood," Magill said. "... We have a tremendous amount invested in our property, and we love the neighborhood, but, unfortunately, you can't ignore this. At the end of the day, it's the blatant unfairness of one neighbor to impose their commercial business above the rights of the surrounding community."

According to Magill, the trouble began in 2017 when Julia Pirnack and her siblings rebranded their mother's former residence on the property as Haystack Hearth, a private event venue that can accommodate up to 300 guests and includes overnight lodging. During a "soft-launch" that summer, Haystack Hearth hosted a handful of large gatherings, and neighbors knew from the start that the facility would test their neighborly bond with the property's second-generation owners.

"Where before we heard an occasional golfer exclaim when they made their perfect shot, now we hear dj's and hours of music," wrote Cheryl Craig, who moved to her "forever home" next to Haystack in 1988. "Some afternoons/evenings we are unable to spend time in our backyard due to the irritation from the noise."

Both Craig and Magill claim that their initial complaints were rebuffed by Pirnack, who serves as legal trustee of the business and oversees much of the operations. Previously, she served as Longmont's mayor from 2001 to 2007.

"Scott Pirnack, Julia's husband, was very dismissive of our complaints, saying that 'these are just weddings and everyone has noise'," Magill said.

In an interview published last month, Julia Pirnack told the Courier that the neighbors complaints have not been substantiated and that she monitors noise levels and keeps them within acceptable limits. She also said that the special events help support the golf business, which is under financial strain in the wake of estate taxes and other outstanding obligations following her mother's death in 2016.

When it became clear that they weren't getting a response by approaching the owners directly, Magill said he started calling the Boulder County Sheriff's office, which was "extremely friendly," but was unable to do much about the events due to Haystack's "non-conforming" zoning status.

In 2018, Haystack Hearth was slated to host 20 events, and "the noise escalated to such a point that we were trying to call everyone," Magill said. One of their first contacts was with the Colorado Liquor Enforcement Division, which investigated claims that Haystack was in violation of its tavern license in May, and then issued a violation in August for "allowing another LLC, Haystack Hearth, to exercise the privileges of its liquor license," and for allowing liquor onto Haystack Hearth and the golf course, which are unlicensed premises, according to Licensing Program Manager Kristen Huber of the county Administrative Services Department.

The violation resulted in a 10-day license suspension in May 2019. Earlier this year, Haystack applied for an expanded liquor license, to modify the premises "into some of those areas they were using, but weren't actually licensed," Huber said. That was granted in May 2019, with no input from the neighbors, according to Magill.

"The pace of commercialization, the pace of expansion, and the liquor licensing with no public hearing really leaves us concerned about what's going to happen to our quality of life," he said. "It's extremely stressful, just never knowing what you're going to find."

Those concerns were further exacerbated when Haystack launched "Left Hand Bier Garten," featuring live music on Thursday, Fridays and Saturdays, a move that spurred area residents to action for the Sept. 6 opening.

"Several of us got together and said 'What can we do? We've got to let people know what's going on here'," Magill said. "So we got some signs and stood on Sylvan Road...to protest the commercialization in our backyards. Because there's been increased traffic on that road-we've seen them busing in people for a wedding-and we're just trying to get our voice heard."

Magill also reached out to Boulder County Land Use in 2018, and he and his neighbors finally got a meeting with Director Dale Case in May 2019, after they submitted a petition with 50 signatures outlining the extent of the increased disruption from the venue. At issue is Haystack's "non-conforming agricultural" status, which Jesse Rounds, senior planner for Code Compliance and Public Information with Boulder County, described as a "carve-out in the land use code that recognizes that people have lived and worked in Boulder County since before the code was adopted."

"The way it works," he continued, "as long as they don't expand their use, then we consider that an allowable ongoing use." Rounds further explained that weddings and other events are generally considered "certain uses incidental to a golf course," and, as such, would be permissible at Haystack. However, he added, "If they expanded the use significantly...or into areas where that use traditionally wouldn't happen or wouldn't be permitted, that could be a violation."

Magill and the other neighbors strongly contend that Haystack Hearth is an expanded use, and Rounds said his team is currently investigating those claims. Earlier this month, the county issued a 30-day notice of violation to Haystack's owners, and is working with their attorneys to secure "the cooperation we need to figure out what they're doing."

"It may be that to make themselves economically viable, they've proposed a bunch of uses that are not permissible," he said. "My team is responsible for figuring out if the use that's occurring on Haystack right now is in compliance with their non-conforming status, and if it isn't, what sort of process might they go through to resolve it, if there is one."

Rounds is hopeful there is a solution for Haystack and its neighbors that avoids a lengthy planning process, which may not work out in either party's favor.

"Maybe, in the best-case scenario, there's a way for Mr. Magill and his neighbors to have the peace and quiet that they deserve and for Haystack to continue to use the golf course as they should," he said.

The Magills and their neighbors are also hoping for the best-case scenario, though they admit they have lost a lot of trust, both in Haystack's owners and the county. If they can't find relief with land use, the neighbors are exploring their legal options, though retaining an attorney and filing a lawsuit would be costly. Ultimately, they just want Boulder County to enforce its regulatory code consistently.

"We believe in the rights of property owners to do what they want with their property," Craig wrote. "But there are also rules that prevent people from significantly impacting their neighbors while exercising their rights.... We would simply ask the county to hold some hearings so that we all can come to some level of compromise or to enforce its land use provisions to maintain our rights to a peaceful neighborhood."

The Magills echoed her sentiments, and added that they "don't want to ruin anyone's business."

"We love the golf course," Marty Magill said. "What a great part of the community-we've all played out there or enjoyed a beer at the clubhouse. So it's sad and frustrating for us that we've been forced into this. We feel like we have to fight just to enjoy our home."

Courtesy Photo


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