For the second time in as many weeks Cumberland council has voted against holding The Big Time Out at Village Park.
In a 2-2 vote at a special Tuesday meeting to reconsider a revised application from Cumberland Village Works, council defeated a motion by Coun. Kate Greening to proceed with the Aug. 12 and 13 music festival at its usual location near the downtown core.
Last week at an in-camera meeting, council unanimously denied the application to hold the event in the village, siding with a recommendation from the RCMP, who are concerned about security. Mayor Fred Bates, who did not attend Tuesday’s session, had also said BTO organizers failed to submit security and other application details on time.
In a revised application, festival artistic director vig Schulman proposed to remove the beer garden from the event. He also proposed to hire supplemental contract security — which would increase the number of people in a security capacity to more than 130 — and to name Bates and the four councillors in the insurance policy, in addition to the Village itself.
“Please bring The Big Time Out back to Cumberland where it belongs,” an emotional Schulman said to a round of applause from about 50 supporters who attended Tuesday’s meeting.
Schulman admits, “We did not conform to the timelines that were set out for this year.” Without a beer garden, police acknowledge they “no longer have a say as far as approving the event,” he added.
He also noted 600-plus e-mails had appealed to council to reconsider its original decision.
Greening’s motion was subject to the amended security plan. She also requested festival organizers to debrief the community at an October meeting.
Coun. Gwyn Sproule, despite seconding the motion, was not impressed with the barrage of e-mails and misinformation that pointed fingers at council when the blame, she said, should be placed on organizers for missed deadlines.
“Council has the potential to be held liable for gross negligence in the eyes of the law, both as a corporate body and as individuals, if it allows The Big Time Out to proceed without RCMP support,” she said.
Sproule questioned if the Village and council could be liable if something happened, even at an alcohol-free event.
Acting chief administrative officer Dave Durrant, noting indemnification of councillors under the Local Government Act, said the Village can be held liable when thousands of people attend a community event, even if police are not required to sign off.
“It has to do with risk appetite,” he said. “That is a very precarious position for any municipal council.”
Couns. Leslie Baird and Bronco Moncrief, who chaired the meeting, did not support Greening’s motion.
“This has been going on since last year,” said Moncrief, who suggested the throng of support was an attempt to intimidate council into reversing its earlier decision. “Here we are at the ninth minute. I do not support this. Hopefully next year you’ll get your act together sooner.”
Baird is not prepared to put herself in a position to lose her home, nor to risk a lawsuit against the Village.
“It would be negligent on my part,” she said, acknowledging the difficulty of making a decision to not support the festival.
Greening said it is important to look at the whole picture and suggests a bit of “give and take” is needed when making hard decisions.
The festival is scheduled to proceed at an alternate venue at Ash Berry Farm in Royston.
Schulman, addressing a crowd outside after the meeting, said he has faced the same timelines every year and that Cumberland Village Works did its due diligence but did not receive the same flexibility demonstrated by council and police at previous events.
The recent murder near the entrance to Vanier Secondary in Courtenay in which a 16-year-old boy is accused of fatally stabbing 19-year-old James Denton following a music festival at the Exhibition Grounds figured in police’s decision to not endorse the Big Time Out. In a letter to council, Comox Valley RCMP Insp. Tom Gray said the fallout from the murder “is one of highly-charged anger and raw, unresolved feelings towards various segments of the community.”
Ash Berry Farm falls within the jurisdiction of the regional district, which does not require a special permit if fewer than 1,000 people attend the event, as organizers have indicated. If attendance exceeds 1,000 — including fans, entertainers, crew, staff, vendors and security — the district would investigate because the overflow would contravene a bylaw. Noise complaints during or after the festival are also subject to investigation.