OMB Approves Canada’s Largest Event Grounds for 2017 and 2018
Residents Demand Ontario Government act to shut down Burl’s Creek concerts
The Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) issued a stunning decision today, authorizing the temporary use of the Burl’s Creek Event Grounds (BCEG) for 27 days of camping, parking and large-scale events. In the process it rewarded a concert promoter that has repeatedly been charged with bylaw violations, whose developments have been opposed by at least three provincial ministries, and that has demonstrated little regard for local residents.
The sorry record of the Burl’s Creek concerts includes:
–40,000+ concert goers arriving on foot, car, and bus and by camper RV’s while projecting loud music nonstop over several days
–Trespassing on local farms and backyards to sleep and hide their booze
–Erecting large-scale staging and directing lighting into local farmers and resident’s windows
–Repeatedly exceeding agreed noise limits
Inexplicably, the OMB ruled that this behavior “can reasonably be described as a harmony of uses”. Local farmers testified to the contrary, claiming that these impacts are incompatible with country living and agricultural production. This testimony was ignored by the Board.
“We cannot understand why the OMB would reward Burl’s Creek’s repeated bad behaviour, and why it would ignore the clear direction of the provincial government that concert-goers should not be allowed to camp and park on prime agricultural land,” said Wendy McKay, longtime resident of Oro-Medonte and spokesperson for the residents group Save Oro.
“We asked the Board to answer a simple question, would you live beside such a disruptive land use in your community? They refused our farming community this simple request. It seems the OMB prefers to side with a multi-million dollar concert company,” added Ms. McKay.
“We brought aerial photos of 40,000 campers and workers on site and testified to non-stop noise, soil compaction impacting farming and scorched earth from tents and non-use of toilet facilities. With all the tents and RV’s, garbage and overthrown toilets, the site looks like an environmental disaster movie. Our local politicians are out of their league and turn their heads away. We hope the province will send a strong message that rules should be obeyed and residents return to have the ability to enjoy their homes and farms.”
The Township of Oro-Medonte Official Plan prohibits major construction and investments in lands used for temporary uses, such as event grounds. The OMB heard uncontroverted testimony that the Burl’s Creek owner had invested over $10 million in converting the land from agriculture to event space. Despite this the Board held that “the temporary uses do not entail any major construction or investment”.
The OMB called current events held on the property such as the Wayhome Festival and Boot’s and Hearts as “very successful events”. The OMB heard testimony that the concert promoter has been losing money on the concerts and that the OPP responded to a number of complaints of sexual assault at the Event Grounds, resulting in four separate charges being laid in 2016.
For nearly two years, counsel to SaveOro have asked the province to stop illegal concerts at the event grounds. Although charges were laid for the 2015 and 2016 concerts, the province and Township elected not to prohibit the illegal use of land for parking, camping and concessions.
Similarly, the Huron-Wendat Nation wrote the Township of Oro-Medonte and provincial government expressing its opposition to the 2016 concerts until the archaeological issues are properly investigated. These pleas were also ignored.
In October 2015, the owners of Burl’s Creek (six numbered companies) pleaded guilty to seven bylaw violations (including “obnoxious use”) for a much smaller, unrelated event on the property, an Automotive Flea Market, and were fined $200,000. But the Township has yet to launch a prosecution related to the concerts. Curiously, neither the owner of Burl’s Creek, Stan Dunford, nor the concert promoter, Republic Live, were charged. The plea agreement included the concerts but surprisingly did not impose a prohibition order on future illegal festivals, as requested by Save Oro.
SaveOro is seeking advice regarding an appeal.
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