Public divided over potential for music at Bullock Lake resort

Temporary use application made for PitchFork Social events

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An item left languishing on the Salt Spring Local Trust Committee agenda after the last public meeting was cancelled in March has garnered considerable community attention. Over 50 pieces of correspondence have been received so far regarding a temporary use permit application to allow entertainment events at The Cottages resort, with PitchFork Social concerts especially in mind.

The seasonal Americana and roots music series took place at Fulford Hall last summer, but for various reasons producer David Youngson is seeking a return to the environment previously enjoyed at Bullock Lake Farm. Youngson is hoping to recreate the semi-open concert space and outdoor social experience just across the water at The Cottages, on the foundations of the lodge that burned down before it was ever completed back in 2007.

The TUP would allow the new venue and space for food trucks.

“I love Fulford Hall. It’s just not right for what we were trying to put out,” Youngson told the Driftwood. “It’s good in the winter but it’s hot in the summer, and it’s kind of the difference between a community hall on the highway and a barn on an organic farm.”

After the Agricultural Land Commission denied the non-farm use at Bullock Lake Farm, the PitchFork organizers explored moving to other venues, including the Salt Spring Farmers’ Institute grounds and ArtSpring. Youngson said the Farmers’ Institute board of directors voted against it. ArtSpring was more willing to make accommodations but the logistics for holding outdoor concerts were more complicated there.

“We’ve kind of looked everywhere we could have looked,” Youngson said.

Members of the public appear to be divided on the application. Many islanders look forward to having PitchFork Social return to a more central location and one with more outdoor potential. People who live near The Cottages are more apt to be opposed, citing concerns about sound, traffic and water use, with potentially much greater use than just PitchFork Social events.

Local Trust planner Geordie Gordon recommended issuing the TUP in a March staff report, with some conditions included to reduce negative impacts on neighbours.

“The proposed permit is slightly more limiting than the CRD Noise Suppression Bylaw, and a limit of 60 decibels at property lines is intended to limit any noise spilling over property boundaries. Sixty decibels is consistent with normal conversation or background music,” Gordon explains in his staff report.

The staff report also recommends limiting events to nights when there is no school in session the following morning, and ending all concerts by 10 p.m. Youngson believes his concerts won’t carry much noise anyway, and notes the proposed site is protected by cement walls on three sides and isn’t close to the water side of the property.

“We’re not bringing in Metallica. That’s not what we’re doing,” he commented. “We’re just trying to do something good and put it somewhere that would make it really good.”

Cedar Lane Water System ratepayers are especially concerned about any additional impact to their shared aquifer. In consideration, the draft TUP requires portable toilets are used and that food trucks bring their own potable water.

The staff report notes traffic will increase, but all parking could be accommodated on the property.

Ideally, Youngson hopes to resume his series in the new space in the summer of 2021, but it’s still unknown when the province will permit gatherings of more than 49 people and what will happen with COVID-19 transmission. In any event, Youngson would like the Salt Spring LTC to hold off from considering the TUP until it can hold public meetings again.

“Everyone deserves to be heard, whether for or against, and live meetings are better. It’s a far more democratic process,” Youngson said.

1 Comment
  1. David Fullbrook, The Vortex at Fulford says

    I am writing to express and encourage support for a temporary use permit for The Cottages on behalf of PitchFork Social.

    There are many good reasons to support this application, but I am writing to express a particular reasoning.

    Our island requires a different, more valuable kind of tourism. Instead of Saturday Market/summer focused day trippers and tour buses who pay tour companies to visit our island for a few hours, we require a higher per-visit value from the typical Salt Spring visitors. PitchFork Social has been an exemplar example of how communities can generate significant positive economic impact by increasing the per-visitor value from its tourist customer.

    This is the best, most effective model of sustainable eco-tourism. Higher per-visit value drives income growth across the community by enhancing the visitor experience and increasing the amount visitors are willing to pay to achieve that experience while reducing overall environmental impacts. For the PitchFork Social, this is a substantial contribution to the local economy, which over a 12-event season will exceed $750,000 of gross product to our community. In 12 nights!

    As we transition to a post-covid economy, now is the time for daring pivots toward a more rewarding and environmentally sustainable tourism model. Instead of day-trippers leaving little value behind, let us build the Salt Spring brand around a more compelling and rewarding visitor experience. To achieve this objective we require regionally (internationally) recognized destination events like PitchFork Social. Building on our local assets– the natural beauty of the Southern Gulf Islands, provincial parks, hiking, kayaking, the Gulf Islands National Marine Park Reserve, First Nations reserve lands, the local art, food and farm scene — our local economy needs PitchFork Social. PitchFork Social tells the story of Salt Spring to the world, and has proven year after year that the world will come to hear that story.

    I hope you will support this worthy application.

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