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Large festivals will have to be restricted to 92 acres at Burl’s Creek

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Jul 15th, 2015
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By Patrick Bales, The Orillia Packet & Times
WayHome Music and Arts Festival is a go, but only on the 92 acres currently zoned for special events at Burl’s Creek.

Oro-Medonte Township council voted Tuesday to deny a special-events permit to Republic Live for any portion of the property that does not comply with the comprehensive zoning bylaw.

About 200 people attended the meeting, many of them opposed to expansion at Burl’s Creek and the two festivals planned for this summer.

David Donnelly, a lawyer for Save Oro and the West Oro Ratepayers Association, spoke to nearly 100 Burl’s Creek opponents outside of the Oro-Medonte Community Centre in Guthrie before the meeting began, warning them of what was to come once they stepped inside.

To a chorus of boos, he alleged a request for council to issue permits that would allow parking and camping throughout the entire 500-plus acres of Burl’s Creek Event Grounds and to allow WayHome Music and Arts Festival to be permitted was forthcoming.

“There is only one problem with all that,” Donnelly said. “It is illegal.”

What staff recommended and council approved was not as vast. Staff called for a special-events permit to be issued for the 92 acres that are correctly zoned at Burl’s Creek, but not for other areas of the park.

Shawn Binns, the township’s director of recreation and community services, warned councillors of a variety of issues that could arise if a special-events permit for WayHome was not issued, including extra costs to the municipality regarding policing and potential civil liability.

“The whole (point) of the special-events bylaw is to minimize risks to the community,” said Binns.

A larger risk that has recently developed is the decision of OPP to not provide paid-duty officers on any land that is not in compliance with zoning bylaws, Binns explained in his presentation to council. Any police services required at Burl’s Creek on land not properly zoned will be paid for by the township and reimbursed by Burl’s Creek.

The motion to permit the festival was passed by a 5-1 vote, with only Deputy Mayor Ralph Hough, who chaired the meeting, dissenting.

Members of Save Oro, while acknowledging Burl’s Creek could do what it wanted with the 92 acres properly zoned, seemed less than impressed by council’s decision.

“It’s another case where the council lacks the nerve to step up and stop Burl’s Creek,” Bruce Wiggins said as he left the meeting. “Where’s the extra people going to go? They can’t have 40,000 people on 90 acres.”

How the decision will impact parking and camping for WayHome, which will take place July 24 to 26, and Boots and Hearts, which will happen Aug. 6 to 9, remains to be seen.

Ryan Howes, vice-president of operations at Burl’s Creek, would not comment as he was leaving the meeting Tuesday. He indicated the venue’s official response would be issued via a written release, which was sent to media outlets Wednesday morning.

“We have been working with our planning partners over the past months to meet all the appropriate requirements in preparation for WayHome Music and Arts, and yesterday council approved our special events permit as we had anticipated,” Howes said in the release. “As we move forward into preparing the site for the festival next week, we will continue to work with township staff, the OPP, the (Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario), the (Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit) and the Oro-Medonte Fire Department.”

When further comment was requested Wednesday afternoon regarding Burl’s Creek’s plans to accommodate camping and parking on only 92 acres or if any other Burl’s Creek property would be used, the Packet & Times was told the Burl’s Creek team was unavailable for further comment as it “very busy in final preparations for WayHome.”

Oro-Medonte council approves permit for WayHome

Event is still restricted to 92 acres

By Sara Carson Barrie Advance

WayHome Music and Arts Festival got the nod of approval from Oro-Medonte council Tuesday, but the event — at Burl’s Creek Event Grounds — is still restricted to 92 acres of land.

Council approved the special events permit in a 5-1 vote. Deputy Mayor Ralph Hough voted against the permit and Mayor Harry Hughes did not participate. He declared a conflict of interested because his grandson, who lives with him, works at Burl’s Creek.

However, the venue was denied a special events permit for the remainder of its property.

“The whole intent of the special event bylaw is to minimize the risks to the community associated with special events,” said Shawn Binns, the township’s director of recreation and community service.

During the meeting, Binns warned council that denying the permit on land zoned for special events would pose significant financial and safety risks. The liquor licence could be revoked, posing a financial risk to the township, and it could prevent paid duty police officers from working at the site. All policing costs would then be on a call for basis service, Binns said.

“Those costs… would be billed back to the municipality for everything from traffic management to the law enforcement that would be required…” he said.

Tuesday’s special meeting was moved from council chambers to the Oro-Medonte Community Centre, on Line 4, due to the large crowd. Save Oro members held an outdoor protest before the meeting began.

Burl’s Creek has applied to Oro-Medonte for permission to use the entire 526.77-acre site. The township’s legal counsel said granting the special events permit 92 acres does not give credibility to this pending application.

Burl’s Creek will host WayHome as planned — including camping and parking on improperly zoned lands. On Wednesday, tents and a row of portable washrooms were sitting on the unpermitted lands.

“The reality is we cannot enforce our bylaws until an infraction has occurred,” Binns said. “The analogy I’ll give is, an OPP officer cannot charge somebody in a Lamborghini Countach in anticipation of them speeding.”

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