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The shows will go on in Cherry Valley

Greg Verner, left, and David Raistrick address council and concerned community members.

UPDATE: Motion carried

By Olivia Timm
With council’s official approval next week, the shows will go on in Cherry Valley – albeit with changes to a temporary zoning bylaw.

Residents from the area filled the gallery for the planning meeting at Shire Hall Wednesday, and a dozen spoke to air concerns about lack of communication, traffic, garbage and safety. Several spoke in support of the event organizers who have hosted concerts in various locations over the past few years.
​​At contention was an application to rezone two fields owned by David Raistrick, on his property at 1927 County Road 10, formerly CherryVale Organic Farm, in Cherry Valley.

The rezoning application included an unlimited number of events per year that could last up to five consecutive days and include up to 5,000 people.

An amendment proposed by Athol councillor Jamie Forrester proposed three events – an April Wine concert allowing a maximum of 1,500 people; an Oldies 50s and 60s jamboree and one cultural event allowing a maximum of 500 people in attendance.

​​Raistrick, along with event organizers, Greg and Shane Verner attended the meeting to provide clarification of their needs and apologies to the community for lack of communication.

Raistrick explained the temporary one-time event use permit cost the same $4,000 as it would to rezone the two fields in questions, so rezoning was decided to be the best option.

Only residents within 120 metres of the property were notified about the zoning application but the word soon spread as residents tried to obtain detailed information. An online petition was created the day before the planning meeting and gained more than 370 signatures.

Tess Girard, of Cherry Valley, a resident and music lover, started the petition “Stop the 5,000 Person Event Space in Cherry Valley, PEC!”
​​“As an artist myself, and as the wife of someone who created the Sandbanks New Waves music festival and as someone who is involved with many festivals and loves her vibrant, cultural community, I am not anti-culture. I am not anti-festivals,” she told council. “But we are disappointed that this is how the community learned about this. We think it is too fast and a decision should be deferred until the proper assessments and community consultation have been made.”
Councillor Barry Turpin was unhappy to hear some residents only heard about the application the same day it was to come to council.

“One thing I think we’ve learned is that if there are events involved, the events need to be vetted within the community, not just to those within 120 metres. When you get the letter with an application the way this was explained, I’m not surprised that the 300 people have signed a petition.”

​​Councillor Forrester agreed there was a serious lack of communication.
​​“I think we have dropped the ball somehow, not intentionally, but how we do our process here. In the future, when applications of this nature do come forward, I think it’s important we know fairly quickly because I found out like a lot of citizens did,” he said.

Following numerous telephone calls, meetings and emails, Forrester came up with the amendment in an attempt to please everyone and allow the show to go on.

Many of the citizens who spoke to the issue had expressed support and interest in concerts, and though concerns were expressed over traffic and congestion, noise levels, garbage and fire safety, they were also disappointed with the process and stated there should be better community consultation. They feared an application would be granted that would allow up to 5,000 people, at unlimited events, for years to come.

​​The Verners had been running their music concerts for three years in Milford before they outgrew the venue. Last year they turned to Raistrick, who gladly offered to lend his land to the cause.

​Greg Verner told council 5,000 is not an obtainable, or desired number of people.
​​“This is not a malicious thing, it never will be. We have no intentions of wanting to be a ‘Havelock’ or anything bigger than we already are,” he said.
​​The three concerts this summer start with April Wine – the largest event with 1,500 tickets available – on June 30th, followed by the two smaller-scale events.

​​Verner and his wife hosted the David Wilcox concert last summer at the Wellington arena, which he said brought in close to 1,500 people.
​​”This year would be the same parameters of 1,500 people maximum but in an outside venue at David’s property,” he said.
​​Raistrick explained the land to be used for parking and the concert is not good farming land as the soil over the rock is not deep.
​​​​The conditions for the permit are that music ends at 11 p.m., all perimeter fencing be secure, and that the temporary bylaw expires on Dec. 31, 2018. Review and public input is to be brought back to council after that date.
​​”Ultimately, I’m happy that it’s going forward,” said Verner. “But it’s disheartening to know that it might be tricky to move forward with our concerts in the County.”

Acting Mayor Dianne O’Brien thanked the residents for attending the meeting calling it “democracy at its very best.”
​​The final approval for the special events temporary zoning bylaw will come forward to council for an official vote on Tuesday, May 22 at 7 p.m.

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  1. Dennis Fox says:

    I’m not opposed to progress nor change, but I am not at all sure if this kind of thing is truly what the vast majority of County citizens want here. I recall the “Community Round Table Discussions” that took place here about ten years ago. These were a series of discussions, lead by Council, to get input from the residents about what kind of community they wanted to see develop in the future. While I haven’t read the documentation of those meeting in a long time, I can tell you that this kind of large entertainment venue to be held on farmland was never what they had in mind.

    If people are concerned about maintaining their country way of life and protecting the County from big city profiteering (because that is what this is all about – money!), then call your councillor to oppose this rezoning. You might also want to ask them how does the community benefit from this kind of development? From wind farms to rock concerts, farmland is being used for anything but. Isn’t there such a thing as the Provincial Land Use Policy? Just a few years ago, people were having to jump hoops to subdivide a building lot from farmland. Surely this concert use can’t be a good fit – can it?

  2. Susan says:

    Well the Council format raises it’s ugly head again. This is not a Ward Council it is a County Council! Someone has to lead us to an end where we all have equal representation in electing our County Council. What does Cherry Valley mean to 3, yes three reps from Ameliasburgh? They have no puck in the game. Frustrated by not having equal representation? Yes.

  3. Fred says:

    I am not certain we have a Council that can digest and make these type decisions. 9 out of 10 issues now go back for staff reports. Tourism was promoted as the be all and end all but with that will come continuing challenges. For some of us we just try to pay a water bill that now exceeds the annual taxes! But home grown issues such as that are shelved.

  4. Paul Cole says:

    Well planed events that take into consideration the concerns of Local Residents are a good thing and I think Greg Verner and David Raistrick are capable of running these types of events. The planning for this particular event seems to have faltered somewhere along the the planning stages. Givin the chance I think this could be a good thing for the community clarity being the key to quell the concerns of Local Residents…

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