Opinion Editorial

On to greener pastures – finally

PACKET & TIMES FILES

PACKET & TIMES FILES

In the end, the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) got it right. But the lengthy, costly process that finally concluded Friday with a decision that allows Burl’s Creek to host large-scale concerts at its Oro-Medonte venue is a stark example of why the provincial entity is being overhauled.

First, the good news. The OMB ruled Burl’s Creek can legally host its popular summer events – Boots and Hearts, WayHome and The Big Feastival – and allow camping and parking on about 600 acres of its sprawling property for up to 27 days during the event season.

The OMB ruling, considered a foregone conclusion by almost everyone, comes with two caveats. First, the OMB demands final archeological clearance from the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport – something township officials say should be finalized in a matter of days. The other “condition” is what’s called an adaptive management plan. Essentially, that means Burl’s Creek must register a document with the township spelling out how it will restore the land for agricultural use after each event.

As part of its ruling, which covers this summer and next summer, the OMB has decreed Burl’s Creek cannot host an event that stretches more than five days at a time and must allow the property to be fallow for a minimum of two days between events. Talk about micromanagement.

Burl’s Creek owner Stan Dunford, relieved by the ruling, was decidedly unhappy with the process that led to it. “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.”

The reality is a small but vocal group of activists tried to hold Dunford and Burl’s Creek ransom – and almost succeeded. Wendy McKay, one of the directors of Save Oro, who opposed the bylaw alongside the West Oro Ratepayers’ Association, said an appeal is a possibility. “(Burl’s Creek is) on prime farmland, and it should not be here. It’s disturbing residents in the area,” she said. “We can’t go away, because it’s too dangerous to go away.”

It’s sad to hear, again, such inflammatory, unfounded rhetoric. The groups’ almost hysteric concerns about traffic and safety have simply not materialized. Thanks to painstaking planning and prudent safety measures from Burl’s Creek officials, the concerts have been successful without disrupting neighbouring residents more than one should reasonably expect from such events.

And when it comes to reasonable, is it reasonable this matter landed at the OMB? Is it reasonable to take almost 18 months to come to a resolution? Cities and townships, which know their backyards and constituents better than anyone, should be allowed to make their own decisions. And those who oppose them should have an opportunity to voice those concerns, but the OMB, in reality, is stacked against them. Citizens are not on equal footing compared to well-heeled developers and their stable of lawyers. It’s why the province, thankfully, is overhauling the OMB.

But for now, the OMB is what we have. Hopefully, this decision provides some breathing room as Dunford and the township work out terms on a permanent bylaw to allow large-scale events on the property. That process started about a year ago. And, hopefully, the ratepayers’ groups will respect the decision, embrace the events and help restore harmony in a region they have helped polarize.

– The Packet & Times



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