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Fate of Angelstone Tournaments hinges on decision by OMB

by Olivia Rutt

ERIN - After five days of testimony and arguments, the fate of Angelstone Tournaments rests with the Ontario Municipal Board.

Nancy and Fred Gilbert, neighbours to the Angelstone property on Wellington Road 50 in Erin, appealed the town’s decision to give Angelstone permanent zoning for its summer equine events.

From Oct. 30 to Nov. 3, board member Sharyn Vincent heard testimony from 14 individuals, including planners, engineers and neighbours.

During Angelstone’s 2013 season, the town received numerous complaints from neighbours. The town then concluded that Angelstone did not have the proper zoning to conduct the events.

Angelstone was granted temporary zoning bylaws in 2014, 2015 and 2016 before being given permanent zoning in April of this year.

The zoning allows Angelstone to use its property for equine competitions, camping for staff (to ensure care and security of horses) and the sale of equestrian merchandise and food and beverages.

The Gilberts appealed the town’s decision in May.

Nancy Smith, lawyer for the Gilberts, framed her case around the Gilberts’ experience “before and after” Angelstone. She outlined the impact Angelstone has had on the Gilberts since the tournaments began in 2011, including noise, lights, trespassing, drainage problems and more.  

Smith also argued the events at Angelstone are entertainment and should not be allowed on prime agricultural land.

“This entertainment destination has no place on class two soils,” she said.

Nancy Gilbert was the first witness in the five-day hearing.

Gilbert said she has not been able to enjoy her property since 2013. She said at the beginning, it took the couple a long time to figure out what they could do about it.

“All we really want to do is live in our home and enjoy it,” said Gilbert.  

In May, Erin’s lawyer sent a letter to Angelstone explaining the bylaw allowing the tournaments to proceed had not come into effect because it was being appealed.

The letter stated that if Angelstone decided to continue with its 2017 season events, “it is the town’s position that Angelstone would be proceeding at its own risk” and the town “will reserve all of its rights to take such legal action as it may deem necessary.”

However, the township did provide Angelstone a major events permit this year and Angelstone proceeded with its scheduled tournaments.

In an interview with the Advertiser, Angelstone lawyer John Richardson said, “Probably 99.9 per cent of what’s going on on the property is agricultural and the bylaw doesn’t really need to be enforced to permit it anyway, so the decision was simply, that we are going to go ahead.”

Richardson said the central issue of the hearing is whether Angelstone Tournaments is characterized as an agricultural, ag-related or on-farm diversified use. He said the competitions are integral to the training of horses to the highest level in order to increase their value.

He said the 240 different classes of competition held over five days of an event week fall within the definition of agricultural activity permitted by the existing zoning.

Richardson said the information listed on the website is to “market the sizzle” of competition but is not an “accurate representation” of what happens on the farm 24/7, 365 days a year.

Stephen Garrod, lawyer for the Town of Erin, argued the town passed the bylaw after thoroughly reviewing numerous reports from Gary Cousins, now retired director of planning and development with Wellington County.

“The town did its best … to be fair and reasonable,” said Garrod.

He added Angelstone Tournaments is a legitimate agricultural use that adds “significant value” to its agricultural product.

“Angelstone agricultural operation is an innovative and valuable agricultural and agricultural-related equine business in this municipality,” he said.

Cousins also testified during the five-day hearing.

He maintained Angelstone’s principal use is compatible with agricultural zoning and 80 per cent of an event day is dedicated to training horses, with little to no spectators.  

Cousins did say there were issues in the beginning of the process, but Angelstone has improved over the years.

“The improvements to the site, the improvements to the sound system and the use of the major events bylaw, have addressed issues of land use compatibility that were present in previous years,” he said.

“The Angelstone operation, including events, can and is operating in a compatible manner with neighbouring uses.”

Under cross examination, Cousins said the noise issues were annoying but reasonable. He said the Gilberts live in an agricultural neighbourhood.

“I don’t think we can isolate them from all the impacts of agriculture,” he said.

In her closing arguments, Smith said the noise with which the Gilberts have had to deal - for five weeks of the summer, every summer - is not reasonable.

“Angelstone Tournaments does not consistently operate in a compatible manner with the Gilberts,” said Smith.

Decisions by the OMB are usually given in written format and can take several months.

Vincent said a decision in this case will take “as long as it takes me.”

November 10, 2017


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