Orillia wades into Burl’s Creek debate
By Frank Matys Orillia Today
An Oro-Medonte event park won a thumbs-up from Orillia council despite concerns from township residents over the impacts of summer concerts planned for the site.
Council agreed to send a letter to the township supporting Burl’s Creek Event Grounds, citing the regional economic benefits that are expected to flow from large-scale concerts and other events.
However, the letter will also acknowledge the concerns voiced by some residents over traffic impacts they say will result from the mass gatherings.
“The city of Orillia would hope that they would find a resolution to satisfy both sides and allow the events to go ahead and mitigate any of the issues the citizens have ” said Mayor Steve Clarke.
The site is scheduled to host WayHome Arts and Music festival July 24 and 25 and Boots and Hearts Festival from Aug. 6 to 9.
Folk-rock Neil Young was recently added to the roster of artists scheduled to play WayHome, an event that is expected to draw 30,000 people.
Boots and Hearts will attract 40,000 country-music fans.
Together the two festivals could generate more than $23.4 million in spending in Simcoe County this year, according to information provided by urbanMetrics.
“This does not include the other small events to be held at Burl’s Creek over the course of the summer and does not include the well-known Barrie Automotive Flea Market that takes place twice annually,” said Coun. Ralph Cipolla, who authored the motion.
Cipolla said a member of Oro-Medonte council approached him seeking a show of support from the city of Orillia.
He declined to reveal the identity of the councillor.
“It’s not just one festival, there’s going to be seven of them this year and it will be a good test market to see how it works,” Cipolla added.
Coun. Ted Emond questioned the wisdom of Orillia involving itself in a neighboring municipality’s political issues, given the opposition voiced by some township residents.
“I’m not sure I’d want the township dabbling in ours,” he added.
Emond suggested council limit any involvement to supporting the township in dealing with “the stresses of this kind of event on their infrastructure.”
Cipolla doesn’t share Emond’s concerns, arguing the township “has enough political savvy to make sure that the events are run professionally and they are run for the same interests we have, and that is to bring tourism dollars to our communities, both in Barrie, Orillia, Oro, and the surrounding regions.”
In February, Burl’s Creek submitted a temporary use bylaw change application in the hope of zoning the entire property for event use.
Currently, 134 acres are zoned for events and the rest is zoned for agricultural/rural and environmental protection.
Environmentally protected land will not be touched.
Were Burl’s Creek not to garner township approval, the shows can be held on land already zoned for the events, township staff said.
Burl’s Creek says its planners are working with traffic consultants, the Ministry of Transportation and the township to develop a traffic plan.