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Update: Sturgis North looks at other locations

The Agricultural Land Commission has refused an application to allow the Sturgis North biker event to operate on farmland in west Salmon Arm. - file photo
The Agricultural Land Commission has refused an application to allow the Sturgis North biker event to operate on farmland in west Salmon Arm.
— image credit: file photo

Organizers behind the Sturgis North Motorcycle Rally are looking at backup venues after their application to use the Moore farm was turned down by the Agricultural Land Commission.

In light of the commission’s rejection, Sturgis organizer Steve Hammer told city council Monday that the Fall Fairgrounds have long been the first choice in venues, and that rally organizers will likely be asking for a noise bylaw extension for the site for Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.

“We just want people to know, the event is still going ahead as planned. We do have alternative properties, and if those come together as we planned, then we won’t be using noise bylaw extensions,” said Hammer.

A separate Sturgis press release submitted to council states organizers would not have entered into such a larger undertaking without several backup plans in place, and that a backup location would be announced soon.

The Moore farm property at 4321 10th Ave. SW was proposed as one of the primary sites for the festival, including the Fall Fairgrounds, downtown, and the Stomp grounds in Silver Creek. Plans for the Moore property were to have an entertainment stage with live bands, temporary seating, motorcycle parking and food booths, as well as camping and toilet facilities.

But the commission’s decision will no longer allow for any of those activities.

The resolution concluded the land is suitable for agriculture, that the proposal would negatively impact agriculture, and is inconsistent with the objective of the Agricultural Land Commission Act to preserve agricultural land.

The document states: “In summary, the commission is concerned that the festival would reduce the range of agricultural opportunities available for the property, damage the soil structure and health, and raise expectations of permanent land use change. The music festival has potential to impair the resilience of the property as a productive and sustainable agricultural property.”

It also states that although the proposal is for 10 days (the actual festival is for five), its midsummer timing “precludes the use of the majority of the property for most ground crops with the exception of hay production...

“The commission does acknowledge that a small portion of the property will not be used for the festival, but is reserved for a neighbouring farmer’s market garden production. In addition, there is potential for soil compaction from camping and human crowds, and soil contamination from litter, motor oil and other toxic fluids associated with motor vehicles.”

It goes on, “Furthermore it is the commission’s experience that music festivals become semi-permanent events whose income far exceeds that of any type of agricultural production, reducing incentives to innovate and intensify agricultural activity. If the music festival increases in popularity, there is inevitably pressure to establish permanent infrastructure for stages and other structures...”

An applicant can request reconsideration of an application, but only if new evidence becomes available or if part of the original decision was based on erroneous or false evidence. The time limit for requesting reconsideration is one year from the decision.

Martin Collins, an ALC staff member, said the commission could theoretically reconsider the decision at its next meeting, which might be in May.

Asked if a petition from farmers opposed to the proposal would have swayed the commission, he said submissions are not as impressive to the commission as factual information, onsite analysis and facts provided both by the applicant and local government.

Questioned about city council’s support of the application, Collins termed it “qualified support,” in that the applicant had requested a five-year exemption and council supported it for one year only.

In terms of letters from third parties, Collins said, overall, “there was not an enormous amount of input either way.”

Carl Bannister, the city’s chief administrative officer, said the decision affects the proponents of Sturgis North, but in terms of the city, council hadn’t yet approved the site. If approvals had been forthcoming from the land commission, the city would still have to approve a temporary use permit to allow the property to be used for purposes not included in the zoning.

“That would have been a public process to go through.”

Council has already approved noise bylaw extensions and supported some liquor licence applications for the event.

 

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