Legal opinion sought for temporary use permit

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Decision on a temporary use permit application to allow an outdoor events space at The Cottages resort on Bullock Lake has been deferred while the Salt Spring Local Trust Committee seeks legal advice on what activities may already be permitted to take place there.

The LTC voted on June 30 to put the application on hold until September, although they acknowledged applicant Platform Properties might request to see it return at an earlier meeting date. In the meantime, the committee advised the resort owners to come up with a better way to address opposition to the project.

“You need to convince the neighbours your plan is solid and good for the community,” said trustee Laura Patrick, adding the fact that none of those people were at the meeting to support the application “spoke volumes” to her. 

The Cottages’ strata owners propose to construct a covered outdoor space to hold community events that would be open to the public. They started the proposal after being approached by the PitchFork Social concert producers, and consider those events would be their “marquis concert series,” but they would also like to use the outdoor venue to host cultural and artistic events such as art shows, performances, readings and public meetings. Permission to allow food trucks and outdoor tables is also being applied for. 

Planner Geordie Gordon reported that as of the June 30 LTC meeting, 233 items of correspondence had been received on the matter. Around 50 people were opposed to the application, including the signees to a petition, for reasons including the impacts of increased noise and traffic to a quiet neighbourhood. A majority of the nearly 200 supporting items of correspondence were in favour of PitchFork Social in general but not specifically about the TUP, Gordon said.

Staff have recommended issuing the permit but limiting the number of events with amplified sound to 12 per year, not to take place on any school nights and to end by 10 p.m. Noise from amplified music is not to exceed 60 dBA/dBC at the boundaries of the lot. Platform Properties has agreed to some of the provisions but not all.

“With respect to foreseeable impacts, we note that The Cottages has a vested interest in ensuring events hosted on the property are minimally disruptive, as the units at The Cottages are most directly affected. There is a mix of cottage owners and resort guests on the property and it’s important to note that cottage owners are supportive of the application,” Platform states in a letter to the LTC dated June 15.

The draft permit further specifies that no water for outdoor events is to be withdrawn from the water supply servicing the property or any lots within the strata plan. Members of the Cedar Lane Water Service Area are particularly opposed to any increased use of the resort property since their water source is known to share the same aquifer and to have supply issues.

Platform Properties agrees that operators of TUP events like PitchFork Social would need to bring in water and portable toilets. However, the company has recently asserted that events hosted by the resort for its guests would not fall under permit requirements. 

Their June 15 letter states in summary, “The Cottages on Salt Spring Island is currently permitted to host events such as weddings, conferences and others directly related to the operation of the resort. The fundamental purpose of the application is to facilitate the ability to host community-based events hosted either by The Cottages or private third-party operators.”

Based on this claim, trustee Peter Grove said it would be important to get the legal opinion on what is actually permitted. The LTC did not go beyond that resolution to require more information from the applicants, but indicated they should be ready with answers. 

Patrick suggested Platform create an event management plan that includes details on how everything will take place, from days and hours of operation to seating and parking arrangements, and to use that as a checklist. She also emphasized that more should be done to meet the concerns of the immediate neighbours.

The question of outdoor music in general is something Patrick sees as a larger community issue, though, noting it is something the official community plan does not address. She proposed a volunteer industry working group be assembled to make recommendations on how and where outdoor music events can take place. 

LTC chair Peter Luckham said he was concerned by the lack of a fire plan, noting that parking on bare land is a potential risk for all rural properties. He also observed some members of the public have suggested a manager be required on site during events to make sure the permit is followed. 

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