January 29, 2014

Angelstone noise called ‘beyond unacceptable’

As published in The Erin Advocate

Neighbours of the Angelstone Tournaments facility on County Road 50 have told Erin Town Council that the business has damaged their quality of life, with events that combine equestrian competitions with an outdoor nightclub.

“My neighbours and I have been besieged by constant excessive noise,” said Nancy Gilbert, describing 10 event weekends last year. 

“On event days, the loud speakers go from 7 am until dusk. On Thursdays and Saturdays, the music starts after the events and continues until past 2 am. Even with the windows closed, the noise blares through my house – we cannot sleep.”

The business has grown quickly since 2010, from a relatively quiet horse farm to a major destination for training and international show jumping tournaments with evening entertainment. They intend to reduce their noise impact with shorter hours, fewer events and better sound control, but the neighbours remain skeptical.

Angelstone says it has invested millions of dollars to create Canada’s second most significant show jumping venue, after Calgary’s Spruce Meadows.

Now the company is applying for a zoning amendment that would recognize the extent of the enterprise. That includes: competition on 35 days between May and October; the sale of merchandise, food and alcohol; and events with 200-400 competitors, 350-700 horses, parking for 1,200 vehicles and attendance of up to 3,000 spectators, according to a report from Planner Sally Stull.

A Public Information Meeting about the application will be held on February 20 in the council chambers. Before that, council has directed staff to write a report for them explaining the growth of the business.

A statement from Angelstone regarding the complaints says: “Any issues that are brought to the company’s attention can either be eliminated through an effective action plan or mitigated to lessen the impact on neighbouring residents.”

Angelstone says it “has been a community leader in promoting job creation and tourism growth in the Erin region”, estimating $4.5 million per year in tourist spending. Gilbert is doubtful about the local benefits and would like to see more evidence.

“The Grand Prix events on Saturday evenings attract many of the world’s top show jumpers, including multiple Olympians representing over 8 different countries,” said Angelstone Vice President Ryan Clermont. “Admission and parking to the Grand Prix events is free for all spectators.”

“We firmly believe property values will follow the trend of similar venues and ultimately cause the property values in the surrounding community to rise,” the company says. “It is the sincere hope of the board of directors that the positive impacts far outweigh the negative by a significant margin.

“In 2013 we addressed noise concerns by narrowing our operating hours from 8 am to 11 pm, excluding five nights of operation where an acquired noise exemption allowed us to finish at 12 am.” Police were on the scene a few times early in the 2013 season to deal with noise complaints.

Company President Keean White, a well-known equestrian competitor, appeared before council last September and obtained an exemption from the noise bylaw until midnight for their final event of the season, after promising to cut back the sound and work with neighbours to resolve complaints. 

Gilbert says there has been no consultation with neighbours since then, but Angelstone says it has complied with the Town’s requirements and in 2014 will working “to further reduce volume levels throughout the day by refining the output path of the public address system”.

Their schedule has only five major events for 2014 – one per month in June, July and October and two back to back in August. 

The two August events are to include Super Saturdays, with high-intensity lighting that will “turn night into day”, Angelstone says, “creating an atmosphere for spectators that will be unforgettable”.

Gilbert does not doubt that, but says: “Angelstone has pushed the envelope and gone over the top with their new advertised attraction”, and is critical of them for not consulting with them about their plans. 

Angelstone says the special lighting on the two evenings will be directed into the ring of their stadium only, hundreds of metres from the closest residence, and will be off by midnight.

Gilbert presented supporting letters from six neighbours, including one who opposed “even more light pollution to dim the night sky”. Another at the meeting said the noise last year was “beyond unacceptable”.

“There is no link between equestrian events and the need for outdoor concerts or spectacles,” said Gilbert. “There is no need for a nightclub to be on site.”

Angelstone says the intention of adding music in their dining pavilion is to create a social event that combines sport, dining and entertainment. 

In addition to noise, the neighbours are concerned about heavy traffic, especially at the single exit from the site. Angelstone says it plans to hire off-duty police officers for its peak Super Saturdays to ease traffic problems.

Residents have complained about Angelstone customers trespassing on their properties. The company says it intends to build a fence to deal with the issue.

There are also concerns about effluent from manure piles. The company estimates that its manure output after five weeks of horse showing is about the same as that produced by 25 cows over 52 weeks. 

“We feel this amount is standard in a rural farming operation; and we intend to keep its removal a priority,” they said.

Gilbert would like to see an agreement worked out between the Town, Angelstone and the neighbours, similar to that of the Halton Place equestrian facility in Halton Hills.

The Angelstone statement says they “intend to work closely with the Council, our neighbours and our community to encourage productive dialog that addresses concerns in order to reach effective solutions.”