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Burl's Creek 'in this for the long run' after tribunal's decision

Republic Live official describes lengthy hearing as 'a bad story with a good ending'
2019-07-20 Big Sky Music Festival 11
Big Sky Music Festival at Burl's Creek Event Grounds in 2019. Nathan Taylor/OrilliaMatters file photo

A burden of uncertainty has been lifted with a tribunal’s recent decision in favour of Burl’s Creek Event Grounds, an official says.

Earlier this month, the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT) ruled the Oro-Medonte venue had not contravened any zoning bylaws or planning laws.

“This is where we always wanted to be, so it’s kind of a bad story with a good ending,” said Todd Jenereaux, executive vice-president of Republic Live, which operates Burl’s Creek. “It was sort of holding us back from the certainty of moving forward.”

Save Oro and the West Oro Ratepayers Association had appealed to the LPAT, known at the time as the Ontario Municipal Board, citing concerns about the agricultural land on the site.

When Stan Dunford purchased the 600-acre property in 2014, he was led to believe the proper zoning was in place but “quickly learned that the zoning had been withdrawn,” Jenereaux explained.

“Here we are; we had invested tens of millions of dollars into the property … and there was a lot of uncertainty,” he said.

The LPAT decision allows Burl’s Creek to get back to business as usual, and that’s exactly what it intends to do.

“Burl’s Creek isn’t about having large events every weekend,” he said. “We’re not going to have cookie-cutter events every Saturday.”

Burl’s Creek hosts annual events such as the Boots and Hearts Music Festival and Big Sky Music Festival, in addition to the twice-yearly Barrie Automotive Flea Market. One-offs aren’t the norm at the venue. However, “there’s definitely the opportunity to expand,” Jenereaux said.

For instance, there has been some interest in a large-scale event for Canada Day 2020, though it might not happen.

“I’d like to see a few new events, but we’re not going to deviate from our principles,” he said.

Those principles, he explained, include providing a one-of-a-kind experience.

“Every show that comes in is unique to itself.”

That includes The Rolling Stones concert that took place at Burl’s Creek on Canada Day this year. That show — the Stones’ only Canadian stop on their tour — “put us on the map internationally,” Jenereaux said.

“If it weren’t for Burl’s Creek, there wouldn’t have been a Rolling Stones show (in Canada),” he said.

Burl’s Creek is keeping its options open for new shows and events to host. Could it mean the return of the WayHome Music and Arts Festival? There was some excitement when the Burl’s Creek Twitter account ‘liked’ a post from someone inquiring about “WayHome 2020.”

“We really do value the brand. We think it was a great event,” Jenereaux said, but added there is not a “firm plan” to bring the event back.

​​​​​WayHome is still considered to be “on pause.”

As the LPAT hearings dragged on over the years, Jenereaux acknowledged Burl’s Creek was concerned about the outcome.

“With a process like this, you just never know what will happen,” he said.

He was grateful for the support of the local community throughout it all.

“I feel like we’ve won over the vast majority of people,” he said. “We’re in this for the long run.”

Nathan Taylor

About the Author: Nathan Taylor

Nathan Taylor is the desk editor for Village Media's central Ontario news desk in Simcoe County and Newmarket.
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