Their reasoning may have differed but their message to city council was by and large the same: shelve the special events bylaw.
On Monday evening, council’s chamber was open to the public to speak to the bylaw created in response to the coming of the Sturgis North motorcycle rally. The intent of the bylaw, as laid out by city administrator Carl Bannister, is to give the city the ability to collect fees associated with special events with 5,000 or more participants, particularly in relation to costs associated with policing, fire control and municipal public works. Additional costs related to the bylaw are an $800 application fee for a special event permit, a $500 fine for not having the permit, and a requirement of $10 million in liability insurance.
First to comment on the bylaw was Salmon Arm Fall Fair president Phil Wright. He suggested the bylaw would have a negative impact on the Children’s Festival, which has no funds available for these costs. Wright suggested that instead of the number of attendees, the bylaw focus on the type of festival and, for example, the number of beer gardens it will have.
The second speaker was Christopher Green of the Langley-based GreenWay Legal Centre. Speaking as both a legal representative of Sturgis North, as well as an investor in the event, Green suggested the city does not need an events bylaw at this time and asked that it be shelved until Jan. 2012. Green said the bylaw would not only add additional cost to the Sturgis event, but could prove prohibitive for organizers of smaller events.
“If you pass this bylaw you will, with the stroke of a pen, make Salmon Arm the most difficult and probably the most expensive venue in British Columbia to host a special event, and one really has to ask is that really what you intended…,” said Green.
Green re-iterated an offer made recently by Sturgis to the city of $35,000 to cover associated policing costs.
Salmon Arm Folk Music Society executive director Hugo Rampen agreed with Green that the bylaw should be put aside for now. He said there are some great aspects to it, but there are also grey areas relating to off-site enforcement that need to be addressed. He also said the budget for the Roots & Blues Festival was approved in October and that it’s too late to adjust ticket prices to reflect costs associated with the bylaw.
“We can’t really adjust those ticket prices now, so for you guys to implement this bylaw at this point could be extremely detrimental,” said Rampen.
John McLeod, a vocal opponent of one of the proposed Sturgis sites, said the city should also consider the impact Sturgis may have on the hospital. He questioned how the city would be able to enforce its bylaws at all venues, and recommended the bylaw be shelved and made a referendum question on a ballot in the coming municipal election.
Only resident Tim Lavery praised the bylaw for setting out expectations and protecting the city from financial and legal burdens. He asked that the city “reject side deals” and implement it as soon as possible.
One of the last speakers was Summer Stomp founding member and president Mike Smith, who said the bylaw makes him nervous.
“Up to two years ago we ran that event for 20 years with never an issue, ever,” said Smith.
“Two years ago, the police showed up in force… Granted, we didn’t have to pay for that. But if we would have had to, it would have ended the Summer Stomp without a doubt, it would have been over, and we all probably would have been in debt.”
Council members only received information during the hearing and did not comment.
Afterwards, Green told the Observer that Sturgis’ main concern is the 100 per cent cost recovery.
“That’s really what we’re reacting to, the fact that after we set our ticket prices and everything, and suddenly they’re saying, by the way, there’s an extra $100,000 you have to come up with in advance of the festival,” said Green.
Asked why other Sturgis organizers, including Ray Sasseville and Steve Hammer, weren’t speaking, Green indicated this was intentional.
“Mr. Sasseville, he’s very passionate about the event, so I’ve told him I’m going to duct tape his mouth shut to make sure he doesn’t say anything wrong,” joked Green.
Green was also asked who the financial backers are behind the for-profit effort that is Sturgis North. Green said that he himself is an investor, as well as Sasseville and others on the Sturgis team.
“Beyond that, we’ve borrowed private money to put it on,” said Green “Other than saying the financial backers are eminently respectable people, they prefer to have their investment kept quiet and kept anonymous.”