Stanislaus County planners approved a permit Thursday for The Fruit Yard to hold outdoor concerts in a 3,500-person amphitheater.
The 4-1 vote came after nearby residents aired concerns about unacceptable noise and traffic levels disrupting the peaceful area where they live. The 44-acre Fruit Yard site is at Geer Road and Highway 132, east of Modesto.
Some residents compared the proposed venue to putting a John Thurman Field in the middle of the country setting. “What I am concerned with is public safety,” one speaker said during a two-hour public hearing. “There is no way the sheriff can handle this.”
The county Board of Supervisors will most likely settle the matter. Neighbors who have circulated a petition, written letters and appeared at hearings to oppose the plan can appeal Thursday’s decision by paying a $622 fee.
Engineer David Romano, who is representing the business, countered suggestions that owner Joe Traina had started work on the amphitheater without a permit or much attention to noise issues. An earthen berm for the venue was shaped under a grading permit and will deflect sound from the stage that faces southeast.
In addition, acoustical studies have been done and the business will work on measures to ensure the 12 concerts a year comply with the county’s noise ordinance, proponents said.
The Fruit Yard plans to hold events roughly from May to September. The permit approved Thursday allows the county to impose more standards and conditions on the venue. The business could hold up to six events a year under outdoor event permits with few restrictions. The Fruit Yard has hosted Graffiti Festival and live music events in the past.
Still, neighbors raised doubts about permitting the entertainment venue with alcohol sales in an agricultural area. Some fear it could open the door to concerts with limited security, put drunk drivers on the road and result in parking and litter in private orchards.
“I don’t understand what the need is for this amphitheater when we have other beautiful facilities for the performing arts,” said Kent Johnson, a homeowner on Wellsford Road who has donated to the Gallo Center for the Arts and Modesto Symphony. “Why do we need this one on the cheap?”
The Fruit Yard proposes an amphitheater with a covered stage, 1,300 temporary parking spaces, a storage building and other improvements.
In overturning a staff recommendation, the county Planning Commission gave the OK for a reader board sign at the site. Commissioner Richard Gibson cast the only vote against permit approval.
Ken Carlson: 209-578-2321