By Angelica Ingram
A proposal that involves converting a West Guilford golf course into a venue for music festivals is hitting a snag with the Ministry of Transportation.
The proposal which was first introduced to Dysart et al council at an October meeting and then further explained at a Nov. 10 meeting proposes to transform Lakeside Golf Course into a venue to host concerts during the summer months.
The idea is being pitched by music producer Wolfgang Siebert and local community organizer John Teljeur who were last told by the municipality they would need to submit a rezoning amendment application with approvals from the MTO in order for the project to move forward.
An application has not yet been finalized for the municipality as the pair are waiting on the MTO said Teljeur in an interview.
“As part of the rezoning application we have to go through a number of steps including contacting the MTO for approval of the commercial entrance” said Teljeur. “Until we can get approval from MTO we can’t submit the rezoning. We have everything else basically ready to go.”
Teljeur said he and Siebert submitted detailed plans for the proposal to the ministry and were told the entrance is prohibiting them for moving forward.
The MTO regional issues and media advisor for the Northeast region Gordan Rennie said the ministry has not received any notice of rezoning for the property or any application to change the use of the existing commercial entrance.
“The Ministry of Transportation comments on any proposed rezoning or developments on or adjacent to the provincial highway network to ensure the proposed use is not in conflict with highway operations or future plans” wrote Rennie in an email. “Building and land use permits are also required from MTO for any development next to a highway.”
Rennie said the ministry’s interest in the project mostly involves the main entrance to the property which is on Highway 118.
“The existing highway entrance does not meet ministry requirements for a change of use” he said.
Rennie said the ministry is supportive of economic development however it is the responsibility of a proponent to carry out a traffic impact study done by a professional engineer as well as to finance and construct any needed highway improvements.
Since the existing highway entrance for the golf course does not meet ministry requirements for the proposed music venue Rennie said a proponent looking to redevelop this site would need to seek access from another road.
When asked if the same would apply if the proponent sought a temporary permit to host a music festival instead of rezoning amendment Rennie replied “the existing entrance is valid for the golf course only.”
When notified of this Teljeur said a letter was sent back asking whether there were plans to change the speed of the highway in the near future and if this would make the existing entrance more suitable.
“We also asked them if there are future plans to pave the shoulders of that highway and if so when and would that make any difference to our application” said Teljeur.
The pair have yet to receive a response from the MTO regarding these questions.
“At the end of the day they hold all the cards” said Teljeur. “If they deem the entrance is not suitable for this purpose then there’s not a whole lot we can do unless they’re willing to help us in some way which so far I haven’t any indication that’s the case.”
Teljeur said the pair also mentioned bringing in paid OPP officers to assist with the event in the hopes it would make a difference with the issue of the entrance.
Teljeur said it’s been a frustrating process dealing with the ministry and that at this point the proposal is on hold. He said he doesn’t understand why if the Ministry of Tourism Culture and Sport recognizes festivals/events as a way to stimulate a community’s economy the MTO does not work with communities and their counterpart to facilitate these types of events.
“We’re trying to do something to bring an event into the area for three weekends … probably two” he said.
Teljeur prepared a sample economic impact study with the help of the ministry of tourism based on the festival attracting 12000 people. The report estimates the festival would result in more than $3.3 million in spending in the county on areas such as accommodation public transportation and clothing retail.
Although he really wants to get the rezoning application in to Dysart Teljeur said they are in a waiting period now.
“We haven’t really got a lot of wiggle room on this” he said. “Without that [approval from MTO] there’s no way to move ahead on the rezoning because technically speaking we would not be allowed to use that commercial entrance. In essence we’d be marooned from using that property.”
Teljeur said they aren’t considering using the Irish Line as an entrance; it was only offered for emergency purposes and nothing else.
At this point he is getting frustrated with the ministry and their lack of assistance.
“The reality is on one hand the different levels of government specifically anything above a municipality they’re not quick to help us out. I think everybody realizes this area is depressed economically and instead of trying to come up with some ways to make some of these things work not just for this event but for other business that have been caught in the spiderweb too … it doesn’t seem like we have partners on the other side.”
If a rezoning amendment application is made to the municipality the proposal would go through a planning process that is open to comments from members of the public.
“It’s disappointing we’re going to keep pushing at every avenue we have” he said. “At the end of the day this might cost us the whole thing.”