Ontario Biker Campground Gets Cold Shoulder

August 9, 2010 by · 2 Comments 

A motorcycle group that held its annual rally on a property near Priceville, Ontario,  despite being denied approval by West Grey council is pressing ahead with plans to have the land rezoned as a permanent campground, the Owen Sound Sun Times reported.

“That’s still in the works. It’s now at the county level and they are just doing their due diligence,” said Cynthia Pinnell, secretary for the provincial chapter of the Association of Bikers for Awareness Training and Education (ABATE), earlier this week.

“There’s going to be a public meeting regarding our zoning and hopefully our zoning will go through and everything will be good.”

For seven years the group has received temporary approval from the council for its fundraising rally on the Civic Holiday weekend, but they were told earlier this year it was time to get a permanent zoning change from West Grey and an official plan amendment from Grey County.

The group applied for the planning changes earlier in the year but didn’t get the paperwork in on time. The council turned down the application for another temporary permit a week before the event.

The group went ahead anyway, saying it was too late to call off the party because of contracts with musicians and vendors.

The property is designated rural and contains wetlands.

While the controversy over the planning applications kept some people away, others came to show support for ABATE. Organizers said about 800 people showed up for the four-day event.

“A bunch of our neighbours came out and visited us. One neighbour donated some money to our fundraiser. Some businesses in Durham were putting up signs in their windows thanking us for coming. People were honking their horns and waving when we would come into town. They would thank us for coming and telling us they appreciated us being here,” she added.

Part of the proceeds from the weekend event are donated to the Grey-Bruce Eat and Learn breakfast program. The Grey County chapter of ABATE takes care of a section of a highway in Grey County through the adopt-a-highway program. Members also helped clean up after a tornado tore through the Durham area last August.

The provincial association has already spent about $20,000 on a planning consultant, along with a traffic study and a noise impact study as part of the process to get proper zoning on the 50-acre property, which is southeast of Durham near Priceville.

West Grey Mayor Kevin Eccles said he was disappointed that ABATE didn’t appreciate council’s position acting to uphold municipal bylaws just as ABATE was acting to honour its contracts.

The mayor said there other landowners in West Grey have gone through the proper procedure to have designated as campgrounds.

“It has nothing to do with the fact that they are bikers. It’s that they are operating a campground ahead of having a proper zoning and amendments,” Eccles said.

Over the years the group’s activities have stirred controversy and divided the local community.

Neighbour Doug Dean, a horse breeder who owns a farm within a mile of the ABATE property, said he could live with the noise and disturbance of one annual weekend event, but camping all year round would change the nature of the quiet rural community.

But his biggest concern is that the property, which is marginal farm land at best, is low and wet in many parts and can’t sustain 400 campsites — a number that has been proposed by ABATE in the past.

“I don’t think it’s a very compatible use for that as a campground. It doesn’t fit in with the complexion and nature of the neighbourhood and the community. It’s hazard land and fragile. There’s been a lot of upset and complaints over the years with the noise and the smoke that comes from the campfires,” said Dean, who notices that the sound of the motorbikes along the dirt road and the music from the bands into the early hours of the morning spook his mares and disturb their young newborns.

“It would give them the opportunity for more than one weekend. It could be any time of the year. I don’t really think the community or the land is up for it,” he added.

Syd and Karen Parkin live within 200 yards of the ABATE property.

“Last night was the first night since the 18th of June that we’ve actually slept a full night. It’s either the smoke coming in the windows because they have their campfires 24/7, the cursing and the cussing and the hooting and the hollering and general talking until three, four or five in the morning,” Karen Parkin said in an interview Friday.

She said there’s been camping since early May on a part of the property further away from her home.

Syd Parkin said if there was one neighbour who was partying and carrying on it wouldn’t be so bad, but having dozens of people there for weeks on end is another thing.

Helen Hendry has lived in the neighbourbood for 20 years and is opposed to having the property turned into a private campground.

“It’s a quiet community. There are a lot of homes on this road, horse farms. We just don’t think it’s the place to have their long weekend (event) or a campground,” Hendry said.

“Some of the neighbours actually leave for the weekend because of the noise and all of the commotion and they shouldn’t have to do that. They live here. We know if a campground is allowed it will probably be every weekend and every week during the summer and possibly the winter,” she said.

Bev Cudney is trying not to take sides, but has been drawn into the dispute because she and her husband Daniel, who is a local minister, donate money to the ABATE fundraising effort. A year ago the couple incurred the displeasure of some of their neighbors when they stored some of the group’s trailers during the winter.

Cudney said she was advised in a round-about way not to offer the group a place to store their camper trailers again. She said that borders on intimidation.

“It was time to speak up,” she said.

She supports the group having its annual fundraising weekend but she wants to see some limits on the number of campsites allowed if the rezoning is approved.

“There have to be negotiations with the neighbors to make this work and I think it can work. The people just have to get together and talk,” Cudney said.

No date has been set yet for a public meeting on the county official plan amendment and municipal rezoning.