Hundreds pack hall for final Sunfest relocation meeting

By the sound of the audience, most of the crowd supported the idea of moving Sunfest to a property at Meade Creek

A Meade Creek area resident

A Meade Creek area resident

Youbou Hall has hosted many contentious public meetings through the years and 250 people packed into it again Dec. 7 as the Sunfest/Lake Town Ranch project reached its final public stage.

By the sound of the audience, most of the crowd supported the idea of moving Sunfest to a property at Meade Creek that its owners are calling Lake Town Ranch, but a vocal group of opponents still wanted one more chance to speak to a Cowichan Valley Regional District panel that included Youbou director Klaus Kuhn, Honeymoon Bay director Ian Morrison and North Oyster director Mary Marcotte, plus regional district staffers Mike Tippett and Rob Conway.

Also on hand to answer questions were Lake Town Ranch’s Greg Adams and Jennifer Kay.

Some of the newest updates about the project included the assurance that only 15 days per year would be allocated to festivals, instead of the 30 originally requested by the developer. There is also a provision that three unused days can be carried forward one year.

Another new point is that music must stop during a quiet time of 1 a.m. to 9 a.m. each day of a festival, Tippett said.

But most of the audience had come to hear what the people had to say to back up the 82 letters received up to the time of the public hearing. It was the last chance to get anything on the record.

Many opponents, led by John Harmon and former mayor Jack Peake, called for independent studies of such subjects as forest fire risk, known criminal activity, traffic, other similar festivals, effects of sound, and water problems.

Resident Diana Gunderson said the Cowichan River is already “really stressed” by the numbers of people visiting Lake Cowichan in the summer.

She talked about the garbage and “gallons and gallons of urine” that are already dumped in it.

Gunderson said she considered all the risks “insurmountable”, adding, “I don’t want this to go in my backyard.”

Cowichan Valley MLA Bill Routley, who spoke on behalf of “his people”, said seniors were concerned about vandalism and other dangers.

He also said the Meade Creek site is too far from a hospital to be safe.

Adams said his group has made every effort to provide a safe site, but if that is the case, “everyone who lives in Youbou is not safe.”

Tempers frayed after the first hour and a half.

When one man stood up and said he had moved to the area for the quiet lifestyle and asked if allowing Lake Town Ranch would be jeopardizing the area’s reputation, a voice from the audience yelled, “Sit down. It’s a three-day event!”

Others joined briefly in but Kuhn rebuked them for being disrespectful and then said bluntly that he would be making his decision “for the majority of people in Area I. I act for my people.”

Several speakers said they were concerned about the effect on the environment but Denis Martel of the Wilderness Watch group, stepped up and said that the group was actually supporting the proposal.

Former CVRD chair Joe Allan pointed out that the property next to the site was already zoned heavy industrial, so if people were concerned about noise and other problems, they could still be facing them from operations on that land.

By 8:50 p.m., they finally got around to the positive comments and a line of people quickly formed at the mic right out to the door.

Lake Cowichan Coun. Bob Day quoted a 1991 report that called for establishment of a destination resort and possibly a theme park to help boost the economy of the area.

Resident Don Beldessi said that although he had fought for years to keep forest land in forest use, it’s not going to happen.

“The F1 zone will never get logged again,” he said. “I urge the CVRD board to support this proposal. We’ve had rock polishing, chicken processing, Youbou Lands promising a whole new community. Here, we have a promoter with a known product.”

Beldessi said he was also surprised to hear the kind of people who were said to attend the event. “My wife goes with her girl friends. She was surprised to learn she was a party animal,” he said.

Lake Cowichan Mayor Ross Forrest said it was time to look forward.

“We’re talking about a huge influx of money. You need to get your head out of the sand.”

Forrest said that he, along with most people, would have to accept some changes but the result will be worth the effort.

“There are complaints about noise that hasn’t even happened yet. Gift horses don’t come along very often. Let’s enjoy a living community,” he urged.