Monte Creek Ranch Winery’s proposal for an open-air amphitheatre passed third reading at Thursday’s meeting of the Thompson-Nicola Regional District’s board of directors, but not without stipulations.
A majority vote of the board approved third reading of zoning bylaw after a public hearing, subject to establishment of a noise-management plan that is acceptable and enforceable by the TNRD, established and secured by a voluntary covenant.
The bylaw allows for the proposed open-air amphitheatre, outdoor assembly uses and overflow event parking at Monte Creek east of Kamloops. To be adopted, TNRD staff and the winery must negotiate and agree to the noise-management plan and covenant, then receive the go-ahead from the board of directors.
The project also needs to be approved by the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure.
“I appreciate a lot of the input. I think a lot of people have taken quite a bit of consideration on the matter,” Monte Creek general manager Erik Fisher said after the decision.
But, he added, the application for the project, which began last October, has been a long one.
“In a way it’s unfortunate,” he said.
“Right now, the rate of change is the slowest rate of change that we’re going to experience for the rest of our lives. A big part of me would like to see people making progressive decisions and deciding to not sit on the fence and, based on empirical evidence, make decisions that are going to move this industry and this region forward.”
A casualty of Thursday’s decision may be the timeline of the project. Fisher said the amphitheatre will not likely open in 2017, as had originally been planned.
The public hearing featured concerns and support.
Anxieties centred around noise levels, hours of operation, frequency of events and Monte Creek’s ability and willingness to control the sound of the amphitheatre.
The gallery sat mostly full — an unusual state of affairs for the TNRD at its headquarters at Victoria Street and Fifth Avenue in downtown Kamloops.
The TNRD also received more than 50 letters and emails in advance of the meeting, which were primarily of support.
Only a handful of residents spoke at the hearing, three of whom were against and one of whom was in favour.
“I’ve noticed that all the people endorsing and supporting this project live nowhere near it,” said Ken Wells, who spoke against the project and also submitted a letter with his wife, Shirley, in advance of the public hearing. His home is across the South Thompson River, north of the proposed site.
“My wife and I are very apprehensive about the impact of this noise pollution on our daily lives.”
But the gallery was not exclusively filled with opposition.
“I do not find the noise level to be an incursion on my lifestyle. I welcome the winery, I welcome the means in which they conduct their business,” said Jack Buckham, who described himself as the resident nearest the winery, directly across the river, where he has lived for 40 years.
“Yes, the amphitheatre may provide a little bit of noise,” Buckham said. “I listened Sept. 20 [the day Monte Creek conducted a noise test]. I didn’t find it objectionable. It doesn’t compare at all, not even close, to the railway.”
Fisher, speaking at the hearing in favour of the project, cited the necessity to supplement the winery’s agriculture with agri-tourism experiences like the amphitheatre.
He noted the scenario tested in the Sept. 20 study was far worse than what would occur at any concert.
“We tested an ultimate worst-case scenario,” he said. “We pushed the system four to five decibels past a normal concert setting with absolutely no noise mitigation.”
The proposed amphitheatre would provide seating for up to 1,800 people.
The winery is also seeking the ability to host weddings, parties and corporate events adjacent to its tasting room — up to 40 times a year, for a maximum of 143 people — with liquor sales between 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Fisher said the cost of the project will be close to $1 million.
Asked if the winery will continue to pursue the project, given the latest hurdle, he said they will do so until it’s no longer feasible.
“I’m confident in the TNRD board and I think their staff are fantastic,” Fisher said.
“I think it’s something we’re certainly going to continue to evolve and pursue until we find it’s not viable, not economical. If there’s too many provisions that we think are unreasonable and unrealistic, then this agri-tourism project that we were counting on to supplement our farm income won’t make sense anymore.
“It would be a shame to see it not go through.”