News Provincial

OMB sides with Burl's Creek

By Patrick Bales, The Orillia Packet & Times

Oro-Medonte Mayor Harry Hughes and Republic Live/Burl's Creek owner Stan Dunford shake hands in front of a large crowd lined up for free Wayhome tickets after announcing the OMB ruling in the temporary use zoning bylaw hearing had come down in Dunford's favour. PATRICK BALES/THE PACKET & TIMES

Oro-Medonte Mayor Harry Hughes and Republic Live/Burl's Creek owner Stan Dunford shake hands in front of a large crowd lined up for free Wayhome tickets after announcing the OMB ruling in the temporary use zoning bylaw hearing had come down in Dunford's favour. PATRICK BALES/THE PACKET & TIMES

WayHome can legally call Burl's Creek home, finally.

The Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) ruled in favour of Burl's Creek Event Grounds' temporary zoning bylaw application allowing for approximately 330 acres to be zoned for temporary camping, parking concessions and recreational soccer for 27 days each year.

The decision from board members Richard Makuch and David Lanthier had not been made public before press time. The Township of Oro-Medonte and Republic Live announced the ruling at a joint press conference Friday afternoon.

The ruling had come down earlier in the day.

Stan Dunford, who owns Burl's Creek and Republic Live was relieved by the ruling. He remained dismayed the process unfolded the way it did.

"It's really unfortunate that something this beneficial for the community had to take that long and cost that much money," he said. "But it did, and I'm just extremely happy with the outcome. Now we can finally move forward and try to do more for the community with the event grounds."

The parties themselves were still working their way through the ruling when the decision was publicly announced.

"We're just waiting for a comment now from our lawyers," said Wendy McKay, one of the directors of Save Oro, who opposed the bylaw alongside the West Oro Ratepayers Association. "As soon as we have that we will put that out. That's the only thing that I could say now. I think (the lawyers are) going to do that very shortly."

The township had to set a meeting with its solicitor as well. Charges against Republic Live, laid by the township, stemming from the use of improperly zoned lands during last year's festival season are currently before a provincial offences court. Mayor Harry Hughes said during the press conference the zoning would be retroactive to 2016, when the OMB hearing first started. Where that leaves the prosecution against Republic Live is unknown.

"We haven't had a chance to hardly see (the decision)," Hughes said. "We'll be looking at it and weighing in on that... We'll have to consult our legal counsel, but we'll be able to announce those sorts of things, I expect, in the near future."

Hughes felt the ruling vindicated the work of township staff.

"Our planning staff looked at all the issues that had to do with good planning, which means it's appropriate for all the conditions that protect the township's natural heritage, all those kinds of aspects," Hughes said. "At the same time, there's a judgement that says that this event can work and work well within the township, while having regard for the needs of the residents."

A permanent bylaw application remains as an open file at both the county and township levels. Getting that process completed is next on the docket for Dunford and his companies.

The Montagnais Métis First Nation, who opposed the temporary zoning bylaw, and Support Oro, who was in favour, were also parties to the ruling, which spanned three public pre-hearings and 11 days of testimony between Feb. 2016 and Jan. 2017.

WayHome Music & Arts Festival runs July 28-30. Boots and Hearts Music Festival takes place two weeks later, Aug. 10-13. The third addition to the summer lineup, The Big Feastival debuts Aug. 18-20.

--With files from Mehreen Shahid


Ticket sales down

As Oro-Medonte Mayor Harry Hughes and Republic Live owner Stan Dunford announced Burl's Creek had won its temporary use zoning bylaw case at the Ontario Municipal Board, about 200 people were visiting the OK Friday Farmers' Market.

Most of them were there as part of a promotion providing free admission to Wayhome Music & Arts Festival to residents of Barrie, Orillia and Oro-Medonte. The promotion was a success, with lineups beginning hours before the market opened.

Ticket sales for the festivals at Burl's Creek this summer have not been on par with previous years.

What that means for the festivals going forward remains to be seen. Dunford admitted his festivals have faced tougher competition this summer, but he is confident in the continued offerings at the event grounds going forward.

"The amount of tickets that are sold and the viability of the festivals are a financial issue," he said. "We'll have to weigh the results this year and make those decisions later."

Weaker ticket sales are not unique to the Burl's Creek festivals, Dunford stressed, but rather a characteristic of most North American festivals this year, particularly in Canada, where sesquicentennial celebrations allowed for greater choices in music programing. Exactly how many paid attendees at the festivals there are won't be known until after the season concludes.

"We're still selling tickets; there's been an upsurge in ticket sales lately," he said. "We're going to have a festival and it's going to be great. The people who are here are going to enjoy it a lot."

Plus, now that the temporary zoning bylaw is in place, Dunford is confident in what the future holds for Burl's Creek.

"I can say our plan and our hope is to have additional events. We have a venue here (that's) what everyone in the industry would consider a world-class venue. Being a world-class venue dictates you should have world-class events. Next year, I wouldn't be surprised if there were a couple of one-off shows of significant size.

"Who knows?" Dunford added. "But we have the venue and we're now open for business officially."

-- Patrick Bales

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