Seven months out and the 2014 Squamish Valley Music Festival (SVMF) is already drawing a large crowd.
On Tuesday (Jan. 7), residents concerned about plans for the multi-day festival's camping packed the District of Squamish's council chamber. Last year the event's executive producer Paul Runnals announced plans to almost double attendance, bumping the number of concert-goers from 19,000 to 35,000 people this August.
In the effort to go big, organizers proposed Brennan Park's fields become the site of festival's main stage and the camping that was at Brennan Park last year move to the Squamish Business Park. The event producers, brand.Live and Live Nation, sought a three-year temporary use permit on three forested lots between Aspen Road and Pioneer Way and a cleared property south of the Sandman Hotel.
The 12 hectares is an essential piece in hosting a total of 22,000 campers, Runnals said. But not all neighbours in North Yards are putting out the welcome mat.
“When you put a huge amount of campers into that environment right up against residential areas, you are bound to have conflicts,” resident Peter Kent told The Chief, noting the sites would hold 14,000 — 3,000 fewer than Squamish's population.
Clearing the northern lots erases a natural sound buffer separating housing from industry, Kent said. Like many in attendance, Kent asked that camping be placed on the district-owned Oceanfront or the CN Rail yard. Camping on the Oceanfront would bring people downtown, he added.
“If it does go forward, scale it back to a year,” Smith said of the permit. “If it has been successful, then go on for two more years.”
Local developer Doug Day wanted to know what the festival was paying for the permit. He offered organizers the use of his Garibaldi Springs golf course, but talks broke down when his price was too steep, Day said, noting organizers quickly turned to the municipality.
Details of the lease aren't finalized, district chief administrative officer Corien Speaker said. They will be made public once an agreement is reached.
Festival organizers scoured the community for suitable vacant land, Runnals said. Mamquam and Squamish Elementary schools' fields are secured, providing camping for 5,000 people. The Oceanfront was crossed off the list because of its limited access and safety concerns regarding its proximity to the sea. Brand.LIVE also examined land off Raven Drive, but temporary use permits weren't available under the area's zoning.
“I can honestly say if there is a parcel of land that doesn't have a building on it, we've looked at it,” he told the crowd on Tuesday night.
Twenty-four hour security will be hired and non-residential traffic won't be allowed into North Yard, Runnals said. An eight-foot fence will be erected around the area and regulations set in accordance with the fire and health authorities.
“There is opportunity for discussion on many sides,” Runnals said.
Council approved the use permit, but upped its bonding from $6,000 to $10,000 and extended the buffer from 20 metres to 50 metres along the northern border. Including the Aspen Road right-of-way, the distance between campers and houses will be 70 metres, 10 more than the buffer running between Dentville and the business park.
The permit's green light is good news for Carole Bird. The festival allows her business to get through the slower months, the owner of Two Birds Eatery said. She anticipates hiring 35 employees during the event.
The music festival is considered a major economic diver, district planner Sarah McJannet told council. Last year, its estimated the festival generated $9.9 million locally.