May 28, 2014

Angelstone zoning and events bylaw passed

As published in The Erin Advocate

Town Council has given Angelstone Tournaments approval to launch its show jumping season and a chance to prove that it can drastically reduce noise levels. It has also passed a Major Events Bylaw to regulate any gathering of more than 500 people in Erin.

The first step at the May 20 meeting was a temporary zoning bylaw, which was approved. It provides the basis for Angelstone, located on County Road 50, to engage in “agri-tourism” for this season only, including entertainment and the sale of food, alcohol and merchandise, to enhance five major equestrian event weekends and one smaller event.

“Everyone has a right to enjoy the rural calmness,” Mayor Lou Maieron told Angelstone officials. “This isn’t the wild west. If you get a second chance, don’t mess it up.”

The second step was approval of a bylaw for major events “that may cause a public nuisance”, as recommended by the Town solicitor. Anyone planning such an event will have to follow a series of procedures, get council approval for a permit that can include extra conditions, and pay a fee of $200 for a single event ($500 for multiple events).

Only Councillor John Brennan voted against the zoning and events bylaws, wanting a shorter deadline for Angelstone to resolve problems. Councillor Deb Callaghan declared a conflict and did not vote on the events bylaw, since as a member of the Optimists she may be involved in applying for a permit for the Rhythm and Ribs Festival.

The third step was deciding on conditions to be imposed on Angelstone as part of a permit under the events bylaw. Council decided that all activity must end by 11 pm, instead of midnight as planned for the Saturday shows. The permit is good only for the first three shows up to July 13. If problems are resolved, council will consider a permit for the remaining three shows in August and October.

The firm has provided most of what the Town has required for zoning, except a Sound Study to be done with live events. They have submitted Traffic Study that will result in improvements to their entranceway, an Emergency Evacuation Plan and a Planning Justification to show how the operation will conform to planning policies and the County Official Plan.

“Long-term agricultural use of the land is not compromised,” said their consultant John Cox. A more detailed Site Plan will be provided. Angelstone has committed to erect fencing to prevent spectator trespass onto neighbouring properties and to deal with drainage issues. They have said that special show lighting will not have off-site impact.

Lawyer Nancy Smith, representing neighbours Fred and Nancy Gilbert, said in a letter that certain structures on the site should have building permits. She said provincial policy on agriculture-related uses requires that activity be small scale, and directly related to the farm operation.

“There is no farm operation on this site,” she said, and pointed out that with 35 days of activity, 200-400 competitors at events, 350-700 horses, 1,000 to 3,000 spectators and up to 1,200 vehicles, it is not small-scale.

Planner Sally Stull recommended that council approve the temporary zoning, noting that agri-tourism is promoted by the province, and that the Town’s own Equine Task Force has identified equestrian events as helpful for economic development. She said considering the high value of the elite horses involved, it is “reasonable” to allow competitors or their grooms to camp overnight during events, in an area more than 200m from existing residences.

Randy White, the new Chairman at Angelstone (and father of President Keean White, a top competitor) pointed out that they had been given a Headwaters award as Tourism Innovator of the Year in 2013.

He admitted that the music has been “outrageously loud” and that they had done “a poor job of neighbour relations”. The number of major event weekend this year has been cut from 10 to 5. They are now applying for required building permits.

He has met with some area residents to listen to concerns and try to reach agreement on acceptable activity at the farm. Some are willing to give Angelstone a chance, while others remain opposed, especially to the evening entertainment.

Sound levels will be reduced overall. Music levels will be turned down drastically for Thursday nights (piano and jazz music), and significantly for Saturday nights said White. A sound engineering firm has been hired to take readings throughout the nearby lands during the early shows (May 31-June 8). Adjustments to the system will be made for following shows.

The new Major Events Bylaw requires a permit for any event where illumination or sound affects neighbouring properties and which is expected to be attended by more that 500 people in one day (including participants, competitors, spectators, vendors and staff).

In considering whether to issue a permit, council may seek input from the public and various agencies, and may hold a public meeting. They can consider the applicant’s track record of compliance, and whether the event could be a “public nuisance” or pose an “unreasonable risk to public health or safety”.

Up to six events per permit will be allowed. Council can limit the dates and the number of attendees, and impose restrictions for sound, parking, security, traffic controls, lighting, vibration, odour and dust.

The bylaw can be enforced by the municipal bylaw enforcement officer or the police, and convicted persons can be fined under the Provincial Offences Act.