Community upset over an event in the Upper Squamish Valley hosted by an outdoor equipment company led residents to come together on Sept. 15 to discuss their expectations around events, noise and bylaw enforcement.
The meeting was held at the Queen of Peace Monastery and had approximately 50 residents of the Squamish Valley, three representatives from the SLRD Electoral Area D and two representatives from Arc’teryx, whose party on the night of Aug. 27 and into the early hours of Aug. 28 seemed to be the last straw for some residents.
Alex Boyd, a resident who lives nearby where the event was hosted, estimated that about 300 people were there, on the low end, and at least 50 cars parked on Magee Road between Nutrient Dense Farm and Anderson Beach.
The bylaw for the SLRD Electoral Area D regarding noise states that no person will have any music, singing, instruments, radio, stereophonic equipment or other devices that is audible outside the premise of the originating property which disturbs others between the hours of 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. on any given day. The only exception is if a person is granted permission by the chief administrative officer of the SLRD or their designate.
Neglecting the bylaw may result in a fine of up to $2,000, imprisonment of up to six months or both.
Additionally, the SLRD clarified that if properties have bona fide farm status from the province, then they are allowed to have up to 10 events with up to 150 people. However, the event must still follow the noise bylaw rules, unless they are authorized to go outside those rules.
Arc’teryx sent The Squamish Chief a statement that said, in part, that they held a “modest” event on private land, which they leased from the property owner on the night in question. Furthermore, they said that it was an invitation-only event for team members and athletes.
However, they did not provide information about the number of attendees, the number of vehicles parked off the property or the approximate time the event concluded.
Arc’teryx additionally said they provided security, transportation to and from the event, on-site medical staff, waste management and bar staff who used controlled distribution and safety services.
According to the SLRD, the Arc’teryx event in question was not permitted. The SLRD said that the penalty for holding an unpermitted event is $400.
Two representatives from Arc’teryx were in attendance at the Sept. 15 meeting and apologized to the residents for what they contributed to the disruptions.
The company also said, in a statement, “Since we learned of the disruption we inadvertently caused, we’ve been in conversation with members of the impacted community to apologize. As part of this conversation, we were invited to attend the community meeting and have a conversation with the folks who were impacted.”
Kim Needham and Lee Allen, two representatives from the SLRD, who were at the community meeting, said that noise or traffic complaints, especially in late or early hours, should be sent to the Squamish RCMP. The Squamish RCMP were not invited nor in attendance at the meeting.
The Squamish RCMP did not respond by press deadline to several questions, including any calls they received about the event that occurred between Aug. 27 and 28.
SLRD is open to trying new tactics
Another resident in the area said that while the Arc’teryx event was disruptive, there are other events occurring that are similarly disruptive to area residents, including weddings.
“You’re subjected to anywhere from 60 to 70 of these events all summer long, so then the whole valley just turns into an event venue,” said Jeremiah White.
White reckoned that running these weddings or events was a way to supplement the rising prices of homes in the area.
“People couldn't afford to just move out there and live. They had to figure out a way to make money.”
“You don't need much income from so-called farming activities to get farm status,” said Tony Rainbow, the director for SLRD Electoral Area D, who added that farm status is decided by the province, not the SLRD.
According to BC Assessment, to get farm status you need to meet a minimum income of $2,500 if your property is between about two acres and 10 acres; $2,500 plus 5% of the value of the area if your property exceeds 10 acres; or, $10,000 if your property is under about two acres.
Boyd thought there needs to be more accountability among all the residents for all the issues in the valley. But, he specifically pointed towards the SLRD to take on enforcement.
“I think the ownership needs to be put on the SLRD to hold people accountable,” he explained.
White said he also wanted accountability, despite being a libertarian at heart.
“The last thing that I want is more laws and more bylaws and more rules. But unfortunately … people just can't be respectful of each other and then we get more rules, more laws telling us what we can and can't do,” he said.
Rainbow said that he is going to attempt to step up the penalties for unauthorized events and if that doesn’t work then he would want to go further.
“We'll be ticketing and I'm going to be pushing to go for court injunction,” he said. “If they get a court injunction then they have to stop and if they do it again, that's a very serious offense.”
Other regional districts, such as the Regional District of Nanaimo, instituted event structure setbacks of 30 metres in an attempt to offset neighbour disturbance. Additionally, they have parking limitations of one on-site parking spot per four guests, meaning an event of 150 guests would need roughly 38 parking spots on the property to accommodate them.
Rainbow said setbacks like the one above are something they will look into and take guidance from other regional districts.
Ultimately, Rainbow said his focus is ensuring that the land in the Upper Squamish Valley is mostly used for agricultural purposes.
“That should be our focus going ahead. And not finding ways to allow for parties and events and dances.”