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Wanna do something? Not anymore!

Steve Campbell

Steve Campbell

Council has stepped in bylaw doo-doo again. I don’t know why, since they seem to invest a lot of talk into weaseling out of their own restrictive bylaws to allow good things to happen. Like making exemptions for three-storey buildings, and trying to find a work-around so a long-time store owner can put up a sign.

This time around it’s a Special Event Permit bylaw, born in the first level of hell, and eagerly burrowing its way to level seven.
What is it? capsulated it well: “(The draft bylaw) terms ‘special event’ to mean a cultural, recreational, educational or similar event [drive a truck through that one!] including fairs, festivals, carnivals, concerts, races, competitions, public entertainment, parades, carnivals or circus events whether held for profit or not.”

There are a couple of kickers in this punishing document, but the one that rises to the surface is: a permit for your event will cost $500.
If I read the draft correctly, this will allow one special event up to three days long. If you’re not broke by then, you can reapply for a second event … oh, wait, no you can’t, it’s one permit per year.

Not for profits? Charities?
If this took even one dollar away from the foodbank, hospital, breast cancer or the Humane Society – it’s $1 too much. Really, do you want to go down in history as the Council who kicks puppies and drowns kittens? When that $500 could save dozens of them? And suddenly it really, really sucks to be a kid with leukemia.
Volunteers – whose community work far exceeds the work of Council in maintaining a strong, vibrant County – should be scratching their heads and shaking in their boots right now.
Council should not be like the province, which takes our money with a promise to return it, and then denies us hospital and roadwork funds, since they accidentally spent it all on boondoggles.

In typical fashion, the draft outlines more than 14 points which must be met before a permit will be issued, including a site plan showing boundaries, location of all buildings, all areas designated for food, parking, camping, washrooms and access locations.
That’s just one. Add: details of everything from food services to sound equipment, to generators, vendors’ vehicle load limits, signage and “the use of exotic pets”, which is clearly getting out of hand here in the County – “Quinte’s Exotic Animal Vacationland”.
Actually, if you had to go through this kind of inquisition to get a marriage licence, there would be far fewer weddings.
There are specific exemptions: the grounds of Estate Wineries, events at a farm directly related to farm production, and events in a theatre, church or hall on private property if zoning allows.
And then there’s everything else. I see this as a bylaw ball of confusion, in which no-one knows whether they need a permit or not. The bylaw states that whether the event is to be punished or not, depends on the zoning of your property.

Is there any way to find out this info without calling Shire Hall? Because, if they work like Revenue Canada, the answer will always be “send us the money.”
As I hear it, in typical Word on the Street fashion, this started with a simple outdoor event – a banjo workshop – near Milford. The organizers checked with their neighbours, and received a thumbs up. Then someone complained to Shire Hall before the event, and this ball was set in motion.
Sure, not everybody likes banjo music – they’re the bagpipes of stringed instruments – but the point is: You must not build a bylaw that is complaint-driven. You can enforce a bylaw based on complaints, that’s a given. But to build a bylaw around a complaint is a very bad idea … it creates rules for everyone, based on one person’s personal desires.

Everyone in the County has a complaint. Some have several, some have hundreds. But we are a community, and we are active. If you moved here to leave your city neighbours behind, and expect to have total control of your environment here … you can’t. You can’t build a silent, people-less paradise around you, and then start eyeballing your neighbours’ activities, in order to clean them up as well.
If you aren’t disgusted enough already, this document contains two items that are now considered ‘boilerplate’ in legislation:
They have the right to send in bylaw officers at their discretion to examine the property, and to validate the accuracy of that whole pile of information you gave them, assuming even they can figure it out. Lot of work for a backyard wedding!

And of course, the always-looming $5 million in liability insurance you will need for your event. We know that Council is liability crazy, and it’s a wonder they don’t have a wheelchair and attendant at the front door of Shire Hall when you buy bag tags and burn permits.
So that got me thinking: Can you get $5,000,000 in insurance for just one day? I figured, if I want to hold a one-day Country Jamboree in my back field, I would need insurance for the year, even though it would be empty for 364 days. Or I would have the best-protected herd of cattle in the County.
So I called my ‘go-to’ guy, Jeff at Bay of Quinte Mutual, and he told me you can, in fact, get coverage for just one-day. It’s called, not surprisingly, ‘Special Event Liability Insurance’. He referred me to a website, where I could apply to obtain a quote.
So I went through and filled out about 24 screens of information for my fake Country Jamboree using fake addresses (it might be yours, so if you look out your window and see a trailer full of yahoos with guitars and cowboy hats, call your insurance agent).
It takes several days to get a quote, so I didn’t receive it by press time. I just wanted to know what the extra financial burn was going to be, before I hired property surveyors, truck weighers, food trucks, port-a-potties and that weird guy with the 20-foot python.

And, oh yes, Council not only exempted themselves from all liability for your event, but you must name the Municipality as an additional insured. Nice trick.
I know that Council has many jobs, and many budgets to meet, but their Number One job is to make decisions which protect the people, encourage its community spirit, and preserve our most cherished traditions. Kill this punitive document in its entirety.

Filed Under: News from Everywhere ElseSteve Campbell

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  1. Chris Keen says:

    @ Michael: See County Live article from 2014 here.

  2. Michael says:

    Everyone should email the Mayor and ask him why the County Canteen has been given permission to block the sidewalk from people in wheelchairs and to take up two parking spots. What happens when the other retail business do the same; we would end up with no street parking. Make your voice heard and swamp his in box with emails as that’s the only way we will get his attention.

  3. hockeynan says:

    Very good Barb.And our pockets are getting deeper on drier

  4. BARB says:

    I stand corrected Susan re:New LCBO being a corporate decision. However I am not alone in stating that The County is catering to the wealthy Newbies coming in from Toronto etc.& wanting to change situations to the way they wish them to be. Granted they do bring money into the County when wealthy tourists are visiting. However there is no respect toward the many generations of County residents who wish to live in peace & harmony in their own town & County with the wealthy trying to tell them what they should be doing with their properties. They should mind their own business . They chose to retire in that lovely area so they should respect the long time generations way of life. NO doubt that the government knew that these very wealthy people would give much business to this ritzy LCBO. Many of the long time residents tell me that they have to travel to Belleville or Kingston to shop within their means. I was intending to retire in the County but not after hearing about all of the disgruntLing amongst the Wealthy Newbies & the long time locals. For the locals who agree with these Wealthy newcomers ,you must have very deep pockets to be able to smooze & party with that type.!!

  5. Susan says:

    Barb, you make it sound like the new LCBO and it’s state of the art design was a County priority. That decision was totally corporate LCBO not a local one.

  6. BARB says:

    I agree with Fred’s comments about catering to the wealthy Newbies.coming to reside in the County. I reside in a lovely city in Southwestern Ont.& I was shocked at the luxurious LCBO. It really looked out of place in proximity to the old cheaper looking homes in the area. We do not.have State of the Art LCBO stores in this lovely city as that is our last priority. As I arrived into the heart of Main St.Picton. I noticed the very expensive boutiques & restaurants that only the wealthy could enjoy. There was no Dollarama.Store for the people who could afford to shop there. I would never consider coming back to the County to retire as I would miss the once quaint & peaceful home town that I once called home .

  7. Marnie says:

    They pitch a fit about Beach Bum’s sign then allow the County Canteen to obstruct the sidewalk and take two parking spaces. What if other Main Street restaurants want to do the same thing? Seems like a dangerous precedent.

  8. Gary says:

    If they want to look at a bylaw perhaps patios on sidewalks needs some more optic. How does a wheelchair or handicap scooter navigate the County Canteen bar. It takes away two parking spots. What if every business did this? There would be no sidewalk! How does this meet Onaterio accessibility requirements?

  9. Dennis Fox says:

    To Steve –

    You stated that you sent your letter to council – any response yet? Can you share it with us?

  10. Chuck says:

    How did the unknown get elected? What has he done for water rates? Where did he vote on Council size? Promoting the arts is ok once families can afford to attend the arts.

  11. Fred Flinstone says:

    I don’t know why the Picton Councilor who initiated this farce of a bylaw would show up at the Wellington meeting with a hat on. Not good etiquette. Looked like a tourist arriving from the Bahamas.

  12. james bond says:

    Steve, what can you expect from a council whose employees state that bylaw enforcement is the responsibility of OPP, while OPP state that bylaw enforcement properly is the responsibility of Council and its employees??

    Then ask the paid Bylaw Enforcement Officer and he will try to sluff off his duties to OPP who state they are properly involved in Criminal Code violations.

    No wonder there is so much confusion and division, leading to bylaws such as this one that is being floated.

  13. Harvey Tremeer says:

    Will I need a permit to hold a yard sale and spend $500 in order to get rid of $50 worth of my junk?
    Will I need a permit if I am moving and have an auction sale?
    Will the area schools need a permit if they are holding a concert or parents night or graduation?
    If my neighbour was planning an event which might be noisier than I like, I could plan to be away for the time.
    As a participant in a popular art tour which has brought hundreds of people into the County each year for the past 8 years, this is an added expense we do not need.

  14. Dennis Fox says:

    Perhaps if Council can explain “WHY” such a by-law is needed, then the public “might”understand their actions. However, it still doesn’t explain the money grab and control mentality that is so evident in this “draft” by-law. Obviously before the draft was written, both council and staff discussed what each would like to see included in this by-law. Now the public are placed in the apparent position of having to convince council that this by-law is the wrong approach – caused by some minor problem – whatever that may be. Council has wasted a lot of the public’s time, staff time and public money on this pointless exercise. Talk about inciting the public’s wrath over a council invention! However, we are promised that this by-law will not go forward in its present form. BID DEAL! Just bury it and pretend it was all a bad dream!

  15. Marnie says:

    It should not go forward at all. We have too many rules and regs and fees. Many are impossible to enforce or are not enforced at any rate.

  16. Bill Roberts says:

    Council was clear — entrepreneurship and innovation were not to be impinged or restricted.
    Same for family and community events.
    The public feedback was equally adamant.
    This draft by law has consequently been undergoing major revision.
    It will not go forward in its present form.

  17. Chris Keen says:

    @Paul Cole – You have hit the nail on the head. Controls already exist. This is just a complete and utter waste of time and money.

  18. Paul Cole says:

    If existing bylaws were actually enforced noise, traffic and alcohol bylaws and provincial laws there would be no need to for a new one.. The problem is lack of enforcement of existing bylaws..

  19. Dennis Fox says:

    Susan – remember that Harrison and the Ameliasburgh trio all supported to maintain the 16 councillors. According to Harrison – if it isn’t broken don’t fix it – he actually said this when explaining why he wanted to maintain the status quo. Hard to believe as it may be. For me, I have lost all patience with this group. The only thing they are consistent about is that over the last two years they raised our taxers by the same amount each year – 4.5% !! In other communities the citizens would be raising the roof over such increases – and now they want more out of us for permits. Sad isn’t it?

  20. Susan says:

    Harrison, Turpin & Dunlop bring common sense to the horseshoe. The rest can be tossed. As for the Ameliasburgh trio doesn’t much matter as they are a special voting block. Picton’s 2 are most disappointing since caving on their promise to change Council size. I hope the OMB changes our mess.

  21. Dennis Fox says:

    Steve – I agree with your comments 100%, but don’t hold your breath in the hope that council will listen to you. Remember in the same issue of The Times where your article appears, there is the story of this so called “emergency water restrictions meeting.” The article quotes one of the Sophiasburgh councillors – explaining this new by-law as being like “watered down communism” with the idea that while he doesn’t personally like the idea of restricting people, he’ll support it because people today aren’t as responsible as they once were!!?? Does this indicate council’s motivation behind this permit by-law? This is the kind of buffoonery we are dealing with – it has nothing to do with our lack of funding from any level of government – it does have everything to do with who gets elected – all 16 of them just keep on doing it to us and it cost us millions!

  22. Emily says:

    I just wish Council could focus on some important things to ratepayers rather than finding ways to further regulate. We have;

    – Water rates
    – Infrastructure
    – Traffic flow
    – Health Care
    – Affordable housing
    – McFarland Home ( a sheer mess)

    Try tackling some of those and leave us alone to manage our events.

  23. Fred Flinstone says:

    Toronto controls our Provincial government, it is only a natural path to control the rural areas that they choose to relax in.

  24. ADJ says:

    Right on the money Sreve!! You have said everything that needs to be said.(Including last paragraph)

  25. County Steve says:

    I rarely step into my blogs, but this is a letter I sent to all councillors. You can do it too by emailing You don’t need to be as wordy as me. Just voice your objections.

    Open Letter to Prince Edward County Councillors

    Re: Special Events bylaw

    I’m sure you have read my column in the Wellington Times, or on, and I’m sure you can see I’m quite passionate about this.

    I was alarmed by a post from ‘Victoria’ on countylive, which indicated Council is considering sending this horrible draft back to the planning committee for revision.

    I strongly advise that you do not do this. This is a document that cannot be saved. Do not waste another dime of staff money to try to rescue this ridiculous attempt to control the lives and behaviour of County people.

    There’s a multitude of reasons behind this:

    Any attempt to control the spontaneous gathering of County people – and our visitors who love to stumble across community gatherings (think Fish Fry/Corn Roast) – leads to a destruction of County traditions going back to the first settlers. People gathering, sharing and working, and having fun, together is a mainstay of the County way of life. I would go so far as to say that this is a huge part of our attraction to city people who swarm us in the summer months.

    As you well know, the County does a lot with very little money. Under the current provincial government, rural areas like ours are considered ‘expendable’ as the focus goes toward urban problems.

    If not for our enormous volunteer effort, and not-for-profit groups, we would be unable to survive. There would be no hospital, no hospice, no humane society, no sports activities, no community radio, no farmers markets (other than on municipal property) – the list is endless, if you could only shake your collective heads and see the value in County people helping County people.

    As a Council, you do not have the money or the resources to take over the work that is already being done – free of charge – by our volunteers, who will surely be severely hurt by the massive amount of documentation and agreements contained in this draft.

    Any revision of this document will only create a bylaw full of holes, vagaries and exceptions which will require long hours – and subjective assessments – by County staff. Better to kill it dead.

    The County already has a system to monitor and mediate in cases of neighbour disputes. They are called ‘Peace Officers’ and they are embodied in the OPP. They deal with neighbour complaints in the same way they deal with domestic disputes. And they are already skilled in the process, and are already paid to do it.

    Council does not want to create a bylaw which will require untrained bylaw officers to mediate in neighbour concerns. And you certainly don’t need to deal with aggravated neighbours on the Council floor. Step away, and let the OPP do the job they’re paid for.

    I have been told that a search of other Ontario communities reveals that only one other Council has stepped into this issue, and even then, with mild controls equal to simple information exchange.

    There’s a very good reason for this, and I’m sure you have the capacity to understand it.

    I know many of the councillors, and I know you to be intelligent people, with the welfare of the County always in mind. But occasionally you get distracted by complaints and ‘things that should be done’. When, in fact, like a bar fight, sometimes it’s better just to let it work itself out.

    Please wash your hands of this, and let the County people carry on as they have done for 200 years.

    I beg you, do not revise. This is a pony that won’t run. Walk away before it’s too late. There’s other important work to be done.

    If you proceed, I wonder if you might have a Special Event on Main Street in front of Shire Hall. And they’re sure not going to pay $500 to make their voices heard.

    Thanks for listening.

    Steve Campbell
    County Magazine/ Wellington Times column writer

  26. Fred says:

    I think perhaps this is being put forward to appease some of the newbies from Toronto. Money talks!

  27. Marnie says:

    So we have a handful of people with complaints and the solution is a punitive bylaw which will affect hundreds? And who is to say that ‘a bunch of drunks’ will respect the bylaw anyhow?

  28. Dennis Fox says:

    I read that Councillor Epstein was the one who brought this idea forward, but at the public meeting in Wellington he left the staff to take the heat. My point is – why didn’t council and staff consult with the public first to see if a permit by-law was even needed? Was this “DRAFT” run by council prior to the public being exposed to it? Was it necessary to get the public upset and then to have your unprotected staff get abused? – they were only following orders. To me the process is all wrong – then again, isn’t this what happens when a council will do anything to make money to replace that they lost through other poor decisions? Development charges, wonky water rates, payments to a fired CAO, repairing a road that leads to nowhere are just the tip of it all!

  29. ADJ says:

    Ok Chuck and your solution would be?….Are you going to confront a bunch of drunks and ask them to play nice and tone it down at 2 am? Apparently this has happened at the same residential address before. Hopefully the proper authorities are called. But if they don’t respond right away you should heal up nicely in a month or so.

  30. Chuck says:

    That is not a reasonable solution to a wedding ceremony.

  31. ADJ says:

    In response to J Pearse…if no response or satisfaction from our local bylaw officer I would invest in a loudspeaker/boombox or other means of amplification,and from the computer make a CD of dogs barking or sirens wailing or war zone effects. Two can play this game.Someone trespasses call the OPP and get them involved. Sometimes it’s necessary to fight fire with fire. Been there.

  32. Olmanonthemtn says:

    If this permit is in response to person(s) who MAY disturb the peace e.g.. loud voices/music and drunkeness where are the the officers who are paid to keep the peace using laws we already have?

  33. Olmanonthemtn says:

    “If you have ten thousand regulations you destroy all respect for the law.”
    Winston Churchill

  34. Cindy says:

    Again, well said, Steve !

  35. J. Pearse says:

    Try reading this bylaw draft through the lens of someone who lives near (local place here) and has suffered through countless loud, drunk weddings, with up to 75 people looking into my backyard, plus speakers, plus ceremony, plus reception speeches. This property is zoned residential.Strangely, I do not get to share in the profits of the event, just the noise and lack of privacy.

  36. Victoria says:

    Not that I agree with this in the least but a few clarifications. This is a DRAFT bylaw (which Steve mentions in the article). There were 2 public consultation nights last week – one in Picton and a second in Wellington. Disapproval ran rampant at each. We were told it would go back for a revision and then a second round on public opinion will occur in a month or so. So there is still time to keep this from passing. Speak to Council. Let them know your thoughts. It would prevent too many great things from happening here.

  37. ADJ says:

    Didn’t Council muddle through a similar situation a few years back about The Red Barn and the issues about a neighbor driven complaint.What became of that one?
    Who dreams up these rules and permit fees? I’m beginning to think Council is too easily lead by some advisors with a personal axe to grind. If Council is convinced it could be a cash cow they’re in for a surprise.

  38. Dennis Fox says:

    Great article Steve!

    I find the comments on your article about the lack of public consultation, council’s poor judgement and how they create division between people particularly meaningful. Whether it is a neighbour planning a one time special event or a rural resident needing water, due to a dry well – council has a way of creating division, rather than unity.

  39. Marnie says:

    Bravo, Steve. Council seems intent on creating divisions in the county. Trouble loving thy neighbour? Let’s instigate a bylaw to show him who’s boss. More rules and regs. A kid will soon need a licence for a lemonade stand and don’t forget the county’s cut to be taken from any sales. Council should listen to the people – a novel idea but it might improve its popularity with the electorate.

  40. kevin says:

    Was the community invited to participate in consultations when the County drafted this bylaw? I must have been sleeping. Who’s brilliant idea was this? I’m feeling more and more deflated by council due to their poor judgment on decision making and lack of common sense. It’s simple; weigh the risks against the benefits. This is ridiculous. How can citizens reverse this decision?

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