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Illegally-held music festival nets county landowner fines, tickets

Organizers failed to obtain permits and were in breach of Mountain View County bylaws
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MOUNTAIN VIEW COUNTY — County officials were forced to shut down an outdoor music festival over the Labour Day long weekend that was in contravention of municipal bylaws and fined the event’s organizers.

The Follow Your Heart music festival -- billed on the event’s website as an inaugural and private, invite-only festival that was more than two years in the making to provide an experience for “those who choose to live their life in the spur of the moment”  -- was advertised to run from Friday, Sept. 3 to Sunday, Sept. 5.

“They had proposed to host the event to us back in early August, and we indicated they were not permitted to host an event on agricultural property,” said Jeff Holmes, the county’s chief administrative officer.

“And then they ultimately decided to proceed with the event over the September long weekend, even though we had informed them they would not be able to legally hold that event,” Holmes explained on Sept. 10 during a phone interview.

The county’s land use bylaw, he elaborated, outlines what people can and cannot do on properties in different zones, whether country residential, agricultural or recreational.

In this instance, the organizers were planning to host a music festival on agricultural land, which is not permitted, he said.

“We issued fines under the commercial section of the land use bylaw. So, it’s deemed a commercial violation and it’s $4,000 per offence,” he said, adding one ticket was issued for each of the festival’s three days.

“We issued tickets for Friday, Saturday and Sunday.”

Additionally, he said the organizers were also in contravention of the county’s public events bylaws.

“So, we also intend on issuing tickets under that bylaw as well. We’re still in the process of issuing those tickets,” he told The Albertan.

Citations issued under the public events bylaw are a different kind of ticket, he said.

“Under the public events bylaw, it indicates a Provincial Offences Procedures Act ticket to be issued,” he said. “There’s no specified fine with that one. That one would require a court appearance and it would be worked out through the legal process.”

The tickets were issued to the landowner, whose name was not disclosed for privacy, he said.

Leading up to the event, Holmes said officials had been in contact with the property’s owner.

“And between Mountain View County and the RCMP, we continued to advise him that he did not have permits to host his event and he can’t legally host the event,” he said.

“The landowner chose to disregard the direction of the RCMP and Mountain View County.”

Officials subsequently issued a temporary road closure of Twp. Rd. 334 between Rge. Rd. 50 and 51.

“We temporarily closed that road, and we did have manned barricades at the east end of that road, so that we could still allow landowners and local traffic only,” he said.

The county’s administrator expressed gratitude for the enforcement assistance provided by the Sundre RCMP detachment’s acting commander Cpl. Resus Organ, who Holmes described as “a great asset for us.”

The Commissionaires — described on the organization's website as Canada’s largest private sector employer of veterans and the only national not-for-profit security company — were also called upon with short notice to man the barricades that were set up.

“They were able to provide us 24-7 support for manning our road blocks,” said Holmes.  

The road remained closed from 8 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 3 through until 5 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 6, he said.

Three county peace officers, assisted by a community peace officer from Carstairs, also provided assistance “to help keep the peace,” he said.

Asked whether any music fans attempted to circumnavigate the barricades, Holmes said, “Friday night got a little bit out of control with some of the attendees of the music festival trespassing on private property and trying to get around our road blocks and caused quite a disruption in the community for the neighbours. But beyond that, Saturday night and Sunday night were much quieter.”

The event’s closure had absolutely nothing to do with the COVID-19 measures that came into effect at 8 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 4 following the provincial government’s announcement on Friday, Sept. 3.

“All of the enforcement provisions implemented by Mountain View County were related to our land use bylaw and our public events bylaw,” said Holmes. 

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Simon Ducatel

About the Author: Simon Ducatel

Simon Ducatel is the editor of the Sundre Round Up and a longtime columnist for other publications of Mountain View Publishing.
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