Guelph/Eramosa council briefs: Council sets precedent with approval of events venue at farm

GUELPH/ERAMOSA – Council has approved a site plan that will allow Thatcher Farms to host special events at a seasonal on-site venue, a project township staff noted may be the first of its kind in the area.

On June 15 council updated the agricultural property’s zoning to allow a newly constructed barn-style structure to be used as a seasonal events venue and permit an outdoor ceremony area.

Manager of planning and environment Meagan Ferris told council the zoning change will allow Thatcher Farms to host events like weddings, receptions, corporate day retreats and anniversary parties on a seasonal basis from May 1 to Oct. 31.

Attendance will be capped at 140 people per event.

In the planning report, Ferris initially recommended capping the number of events allowed annually at five, noting council’s decision on the matter would set a precedent.

The capacity was put in place to control the scale of the development and its use, to give owners assurance that the venue wouldn’t turn into a regular event hall and would maintain its agricultural roots.

“It’s not something we’re going to do every night,” farm owner Dana Thatcher explained. “We plan to have some throughout the year, it’s not the plan to do it continuously.”

Mayor Chris White recommended capping the number of events on the property at 10 per year.

“I recognize we’re setting a precedent, but it gives them more flexibility,” he said. “We have to make sure that this primarily remains a farm, not a banquet hall. We want to maintain that rural feel.”

After some back and forth from councillors and staff, council decided to increase the number of events allowed annually from five to 10.

Council approved the application as amended.

Bylaw activity report

Council also received for information a bylaw enforcement/property standards report regarding activity from Jan. 1 to June 1.

The report from bylaw enforcement officer Ivan Lunevski noted a significant rise in complaints since 2017.

The report states the most significant complaints were under property standards and zoning. Township officials predict complaints will increase as the population grows.

The report also noted a consistent rise of bylaw complaints each year since 2018. In 2019, the township received 220 bylaw inquiries, and 82 bylaw complaints were investigated.

In the first half of 2021, the department received 313 inquiries regarding township bylaws and 139 complaints were investigated as alleged violations; 81 have been closed and 58 remain under investigation.

Those figures represent a 215 per cent increase in complaints over 2018 and an increase of 99% over 2019.

The bylaw department has noted the significant rise in complaints and inquiries since 2018 is causing service delivery delays.

Staff has also stated that due to the lack of officer coverage, there is an increasing backlog of complaints and inquiries that aren’t receiving the required attention for several weeks.

“I think COVID has certainly inspired some calls but without a doubt the calls are up,” White said in response to the report.

“We’ll continue to monitor and figure out how we’re going to resource this situation.”