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Report to come back to council on Open Air Weekends

Let the 2024 debate on Open Air Weekends begin!

Town council was contacted by a Dalhousie St. business owner, and it sparked the first round of debate on this year’s Open Air program.

Dave Doherty from Flow Café & Bikes sent council an e-mail with that sparking the discussion on Open Air Weekends and associated street closures. Doherty’s e-mail centred more on the TRUE Festival, but the festival uses the same footprint as Open Air Weekends.

Doherty said they were a new business in 2023 and planning was done for Open Air Weekends when they opened. He said they were at least visible from the footprint.

Doherty stated at the TRUE Festival, there were giant igloos were added to the street “and completely blocked all traffic or even a view of our business and we were left no choice but to close our doors and not take part in an event we wanted to be a part of.”

Doherty added: “Of all the weekends we have been open, only during the car show have we been included in the footprint, our revenue on that day was 4.3-times any other weekend.”

Doherty’s told the RTT he is supportive of Open Air Weekends but wants to be included in the footprint. His e-mail was used with his permission.

Councillor Molly Allaire brought the issue forward at town council with deputy CAO/director of development services Melissa Osborne stating a challenge with moving the barriers is that the entrance to the Queen Charlotte Condominiums is roughly at that location.

“I have actually reached out to one of the owners of that business and advised that we are looking at various options and means to address this,” said Osborne. “For right now, that is one of the challenges.”

Allaire said she has had several businesses reach out regarding to the footprint.

“I was under the impression a report would be coming forward because if we are approving events, we have to approve that event as well,” said Allaire.

Allaire added she is trying to help the business be able to speak to the matter. She said she assumed the funding alone was voted on during budget deliberations.

Councillor Don McArthur said the business wants the footprint to grow.

“Just to be clear, they want to make it bigger,” said McArthur. “They love Open Air. They were very disillusioned that they weren’t included in the footprint for the TRUE Festival.”

McArthur added: “They want to be part of Open Air. They feel that energy. They feel that buzz,” he said.

Council settled the issue before budget, McArthur said, and had “a big knock-down, drag-out debate. We didn’t talk about it at budget time. We’ve already discussed this.”

Councillor Diane Pouget disagreed, stating council didn’t discuss Open Air.

Pouget said it’s “not just a festival” but a “shutdown” of streets for three days per week over the summer month.

“This has to come back to council. Not once did council agree that it would be for another year, 16 weeks of shutdown for all streets. This definitely has to come back to council. We can’t allow this to happen.”

Councillor Peter Courtney said another “prominent” business person e-mailed council and questioned the frequency.

“I think it’s an evolution of poking, prodding and trying to see what the best scenario is,” said Courtney. “I think it should be revisited – not to get rid of Open Air but to talk about the frequency again. It’s frustrating and tiring but it’s very important.”

Courtney added: “Open Air will continue on. It’s in what fashion.”

Mayor Michael Prue suggested a report come back in March. Prue said he didn’t recall putting parameters on Open Air but did recall giving money towards the event.

“Let’s have staff look through the budget, look at what was said and what motions were made, and bring it back two cycles from now on March 25,” said Prue.

Clerk Kevin Fox said last year, town council authorized CAO Valerie Critchley to approve exemptions and permits for Open Air Weekends including noise bylaw exemptions and road closures.

Critchley said she will bring back a report for the March 25 meeting.

“We’ll have a very good discussion on that day on what we can do,” said Prue.

Councillor Linden Crain wondered if Critchley can authorize the barriers could be moved.

“I want to go back and look at all of the resolutions so that we are clear on what was decided and what remains outstanding,” said Critchley.

By Ron Giofu

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