Cowbell outdoor event application concerns neighbours - Jan. 18, 2018
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
Central Huron Council has deferred a decision that would aid in turning the farmland around Blyth Cowbell Brewing Company into an outdoor event space several times per year.
Huron County Planner Laura Simpson spoke to the application at Monday night’s meeting in Clinton, which several neighbouring landowners attended in order to voice their concerns with the application.
The temporary use bylaw amendment, as constructed, would be in effect for three years, at which time it could be renewed for another three-year period. It would allow for outdoor concerts, festivals and sporting events to be held on the agricultural land surrounding the brewery on the east side of London Road, while allowing for overflow parking and unserviced camping on the Cowbell property on the west side of London Road known casually as the Watson farm.
Simpson recommended approval of the application, however, councillors felt they needed to hear from North Huron Council before they could make a decision. Central Huron councillors had received word that North Huron staff was supportive of the application, but not council, which was meeting later that night to discuss the issue.
While no concerns were raised by a number of bodies consulted on the application, including Huron County Public Works, the Maitland Valley Conservation Authority, the Huron County Health Unit and North Huron staff, several neighbours were concerned about what approval might mean for them.
Sarah and Derek Cherrey, who live just east of the Huron Tractor dealership, were concerned about how loud an outdoor concert would be.
Sarah said that when the brewery hosted an outdoor, tented wedding last summer, the sound was so loud that the windows of her house shook. Thinking of an outdoor concert, where the sound would presumably be even louder, she wondered what provisions would be made to ensure her family maintained its quality of life.
Derek said both he and Sarah wanted Cowbell to prosper, but that he didn’t feel it should be at the expense of residents.
Sarah suggested a number of acoustic studies that would involve more of the village than just immediate neighbours. If a loud concert was performed on a clear night, she said the sound could travel several kilometres.
Natasha Fritzley of Cowbell was on hand to speak to the application, saying that the brewery has learned a lot in the last six months and is working to ensure that the brewery is a “good neighbour” to all residents.
After that first outdoor wedding, she assured neighbours that there wouldn’t be another. In addition, she said there would never be any live music on the Cowbell property past 11 p.m.
Several provisions in the temporary bylaw, Simpson said, would tackle many of the issues. Central Huron has a noise bylaw and every time Cowbell would like to apply for an exemption to it, the application would have to be approved by Central Huron Council.
In addition, concerns over wandering Cowbell guests, garbage and pedestrian traffic, Fritzley said, would be addressed through engineers Creighton Manning LLP, who will be working with Cowbell and have worked with top-notch Canadian festival Boots and Hearts and the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Tennessee, one of the top music festivals in the world.
Fritzley said that any outdoor Cowbell events would be fenced, which is dictated by the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) and would include contracted security and an OPP presence.
In regards to the frequency of events, the application dictates that Cowbell would be limited to five such events in a calendar year. No event would last longer than three days and there would be a minimum of three days between events.
As for camping, Cowbell has made it clear, Fritzley said, that temporary camping would be restricted to three events per years. She also said that camping would be provided on the site with the understanding that Cowbell would direct visitors to North Huron’s campground first. Cowbell land would only be used in an overflow situation, and there has even been talk of signing a memorandum of understanding with North Huron to that effect.
In addition to keeping everyone safe on the site, Fritzley added that Creighton Manning would also assist in both pedestrian and vehicle traffic around the intersection of London and Blyth Roads. Safety, she said, is Cowbell’s “number one” concern and while proper surveys have yet to be completed, transportation from one side to the other would likely involve shuttles to ensure pedestrians weren’t crossing the road in an unsafe manner.
On a positive note, Fritzley also said that the economic impact of concerts and festivals could not be understated. Every time Cowbell hosts an outdoor event, she said, it could create between 50 and 250 temporary jobs throughout the area, in addition to the thousands of guests who would travel to attend the event.
Wayne McClinchey, who operates an auto shop on the west side of London Road, said he’s very concerned about parking and traffic around his property. Furthermore, after looking at Cowbell’s proposals, he didn’t feel they could achieve what they wanted to do without impacting neighbours.
Jane Smyth, another neighbouring resident, also filed concerns with the proposal, asking that she be notified before an event is scheduled to take place and she worried that she’d be able to continue to enjoy her property with an outdoor entertainment venue across the street.
Councillors Marg Anderson and Alex Westerhout both expressed concern with the length of the application term. With something so out of the norm for Huron County being proposed, both felt three years was too long of a period.
While both suggested a one-year application, Fritzley countered, saying that such a short term would handcuff Cowbell in attracting A-list talent, which often has to be booked over a year in advance.
Mayor Jim Ginn agreed with Fritzley, but also felt the concerns were warranted, saying that creating outdoor economic development is a delicate balance within a small community.
Westerhout first raised the issue of waiting to hear from North Huron Council before making a decision. He said he felt it was essential to hear from their neighbours to the north before doing anything too permanent.
Councillor Burkhard Metzger agreed, saying that the majority of those who would be affected by the decision are residents of North Huron, not Central Huron, so it only made sense to hear from North Huron Council.
Fritzley said she understood council’s concerns and said that the majority of planning for outdoor festivals and concerts wouldn’t be immediate, but in the coming years.
Cowbell is hosting the two-day Festival of Thrones in June and is perhaps looking at hosting a one-night concert sometime in August. She said the company wanted to “get its feet wet” before hosting multi-day concerts or large festivals.
Council deferred the decision until its Feb. 5 meeting with the hope that comments from North Huron would be received by then.