Planning committee OKs zoning change, meaning carnival will remain in York Street parking lot
After a sometimes difficult debate, the city’s planning committee has supported a staff recommendation to allow Summerfest to keep its midway, allowing them to operate on city parkland.
The report recommended Summerfest be allowed to keep its midway, proposing an amendment to the zoning bylaw that would allow carnivals to operate on park land. The amendment would restrict carnivals to municipally owned parks, and would impose some restrictions on how they operate.
The issue was decided at a meeting Feb.11. Summerfest chair Elaina Groves told the committee the current dispute with councillors has demoralized many at the festival, which relies only on volunteers to operate.
She said after operating for years without any problems, the city has given them a hard time in the last couple of years over their midway. Summerfest is an annual music festival held at the end of August at Bell Park. Traditionally, the midway set up alongside the performers in Bell Park, but last year the city insisted it move across the street to the parking lot at the corner of York and Paris streets.
Technically, midways are permitted on areas zoned for things like shopping malls. Summerfest had been able to operate because the city would grant it a special permit each year for the midway. However, after someone was hurt on a ride in 2011, and some neighbours complained about noise when the midway moved to the parking lot, the city considered banning midways in parks altogether.
Groves said that possibility mobilized festival organizers, who became discouraged because they kept getting different signals about what the problem was, whether it be safety, noise, zoning, etc.
“And it’s caused volunteers to wonder why we continue to do this. It is really has,” she said. “I never questioned myself. I’ve been chair of this from Day 1 and I never questioned my involvement before. I do now.”
She said the midway is an essential part of the festival and helps bring in crowds – especially families.
“We're not interested in being at a mall – we’re interested in being at Bell Park,” she said.
And after being forced to move the midway to York Street, Groves said they don’t want to move back, because they’ve set up a second music stage where the midway used to be.
Ward 10 Coun. Frances Caldarelli, whose ward includes Bell Park, said she gets more complaints about Summerfest than any other event in the city. Mostly the complaints are about the noise and profane lyrics of the bands, but she has received complaints about the midway since it moved across the street. She said she “dreads” Summerfest every year.
“It’s a nightmare if you're a ward councillor,” Caldarelli said. “Maybe I should just go to camp and say the hell with it,” rather than stay in town and deal with the complaints, she said.
However, she recognized the popularity of the event and the dedication of the volunteers. In light of the expensive renovations the city has completed in Bell Park, moving the midway back across the street may be a bad idea.
"The best situation may be to leave it in the parking lot," she said.
Ward 8 Coun. Fabio Belli came out strongly in support of Summerfest, saying the city should be working to make life easier for volunteers like the ones who work the festival, not harder.
Ward 7 Coun. Dave Kilgour also supported Summerfest, although he chided them for not acknowledging all the good things the city does for them, such as funding, donating staff time and even a loan last year to help cover costs before other revenue came in.
In the end, the committee agreed to allow the festival to keep its
midway on the park, and said the York Street parking lot is considered park
land and therefore could remain there.
Restrictions that would be part of the zoning
amendment to allow midways on park property include:
-a site inspection be conducted with a Leisure
Services staff member to determine the appropriateness of the park in question;
-the park must have enough space for the midway
devices, parking, support vehicles, crowd gathering areas, etc.;
-washrooms must be provided;
-noise levels must be maintained at acceptable
-the hours of operation will be determined by
Leisure Services staff in consultation with the event organizer.
In preparing the report, staff looked at what other municipalities do with carnivals. They discovered that cities either don’t have specific restrictions for midways on park property, or they allow them under certain conditions. Plus, the report found, tradition is on the side of the festival.
“Historically, parks, in addition to shopping centres, have been the site of temporary carnivals and a number of municipalities allow carnivals in parks,” the report concludes.
“Leisure Services has expressed an interest in having carnivals added to the list of permitted uses within parks and have advised that they will develop a permit process defining operational requirement for carnivals within public parks.
“It is recommended that the table of permitted uses within Other Zones be amended to add carnivals as a permitted use within ‘P,’ Park Zones with the special provision that allows carnivals only within municipally owned or operated parks.”