Council questions festival promoter, requests rezoning application
By Angelica Ingram
A special meeting of Dysart council held on Nov. 10 brought forth lots of questions, comments and a few fireworks from councillors directed at John Teljeur and Wolfgang Siebert regarding a proposal to transform a golf course into a site for music festivals.
More than two dozen attendees filled council chambers to hear more about Siebert's plans to transform Lakeside Golf Course, located on Highway 118 in West Guilford, into a permanent site for festivals.
The pair originally came to the municipality at the Oct. 26 regular meeting of council, where Teljeur told councillors Siebert had put in a conditional offer on the golf course.
At the start of the meeting Councillor Susan Norcross, whose ward includes West Guilford, declared a pecuniary interest in the matter and left the meeting. Norcross told the Echo following the meeting that her pecuniary conflict was a real estate concern.
Municipal director of planning Pat Martin told councillors the proposal requires a zoning amendment, in order to accommodate campsites.
“A formal proposal has not been submitted to the planning department,” wrote Martin in her report to council.
According to Martin, the proposal will also require approvals from the Ministry of Transportation, since the site is located on a highway, and possibly traffic studies, which would be conducted by MTO.
“One thing we want to make clear is this is not a campground,” said Teljeur.
Teljeur said the site would only be used as a temporary campground. He reiterated the location's uniqueness and value to the promoter.
“We're not interested in making massive changes,” said Teljeur.
Reeve Murray Fearrey asked a number of questions, including what was going to happen to the sewage, which Siebert said would be trucked out.
“Festivals are self-contained,” said Siebert.
His responses were similar when asked about garbage and the strain it could cause on area landfills.
Teljeur said a lot of it would be recycled, while Siebert suggested a lot of the campers would take away their own garbage.
Siebert said traffic would be handled by OPP officers hired by the festival organizers.
“In my experience the MTO has said just hire the OPP,” he said.
Concert tickets would be pre-sold online, which would help mitigate traffic concerns, said Siebert.
The promoter said Haliburton would be a good site because the future is the Internet and these festivals would be broadcast over the Internet.
Siebert also said those who attend these types of festival spend thousands of dollars per festival.
Shows would typically be over by 11:30 p.m. or midnight and would take place on Friday and Saturday nights.
Festival dates are still up in the air and it is unknown if they will take place during long-weekends.
Siebert said at this point he is focused on establishing a classic rock festival and a country festival and that a third festival featuring a mainstream artist would be dependent on details such as artists' touring schedules.
Deputy-reeve Andrea Roberts said she would like to see a maximum number of campsites included in the site plan and that the MTO will want to know traffic numbers.
Roberts suggested the proposal might require turning lanes on Highway 118.
“My answer to that is we're temporary,” said Siebert. “It's only going to be a concern on Friday and Sunday night.”
Roberts said the issue is there isn't another way around for Kennisis Lake cottagers.
“They could go on the Barry Line,” said Fearrey. “There is another way around.”
Part of the proposal includes using an unopened road allowance from the Irish Line as an entrance/exit for emergency vehicles.
Roberts pointed to a wetland feature that runs through there and suggested approval from the Ministry of Environment would be needed to build a road.
“How can you guarantee that will only be used for emergency vehicles?” she asked, adding the purpose of the road should be made clear during the rezoning process.
Siebert then said that anyone living near the property would get a VIP pass to the festival or a job, which was met with laughs from attendees.
“Excuse me for a second, but I think that’s quite patronizing,” said Councillor Derek Knowles.
The councillor told festival organizers it sounded like they were trying to buy people off.
“We’ve had two weeks to digest almost nothing because the last time you were here you brought nothing to the table in terms of real information,” said Knowles. “I don’t know how anybody at this table could raise their hand and say hey I have enough information, let’s go ahead with this.”
“We're still working on the process,” said Teljeur.
“The process should have started with … a proper planning document,” said Knowles.
The councillor said he wasn't for or against the proposal, but that he didn't have enough information.
“If something sounds too good to be true it probably is,” said Knowles.
Siebert said he too was looking for more information, specifically whether or not council wanted his proposal.
“I'm in the same boat, I need to be convinced council wants festivals,” he said. “John said this town needs tourism, it needs entertainment, it needs business.”
Roberts said councillors were just looking for safeguards, to avoid getting phone calls from people down the road.
“It’s not that I’m against the idea I’m just going at this in baby steps,” she said.
Teljeur said what he and Siebert were looking for at this time was an indication if councillors were going to take steps forward.
Fearrey said he appreciated the comments from council but that nothing is going to please everybody.
“If we do nothing … and go through the same thing as Armatec and turn it down because of the NIMBY syndrome … that’s not fair to this proposal either,” said the reeve.
In referencing Armatec, Fearrey was referring to a proposal that was made for a property near Harcourt where a business named Armatec Survivability wanted to engage in military testing. The proposal was denied a rezoning request following a public process.
“We have meeting after meeting about trying to create economic development, for us not to get all the details and make sure we’re making the right decision for this community is not serving the taxpayers of Dysart. Otherwise you might as well put a fence up there and say we’re out of business.”
Fearrey said what council needed was an application for rezoning, with approvals in place from MTO.
Martin said a rezoning amendment with comments from the MTO is what is required for the project to move forward and is no different than what was required of Abbey Gardens, a tourism initiative also on Highway 118.
If a rezoning application is brought forward, the proposal will go through a process that is open to comments from the public, similarly to what was required of Armatec.