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    Categories: Agriculture

Prairie Gardens ruckus

A county resident wants council to bring in new rules to bring “out of control” noisy businesses such as Prairie Gardens to heel.

County resident Fred Fibi called on county council this week to create noise and community standards bylaws in response to ongoing issues he had with Prairie Gardens & Adventure Farm near Bon Accord.

Fibi, who has lived next to the farm for about 50 years, said Prairie Gardens was not following the noise mitigation plan they provided as part of their special events permit.

“I have a neighbour here with a business that is out of control,” Fibi said in an interview.

Special events start as early as 8 a.m. and run as late as midnight, featuring noisy crowds and music comparable to a rock concert in his backyard, he told council. There was a bonfire during a fire ban in 2015 that threw embers onto his hay yard, and multiple occasions where garden clients trespassed on his property to take pictures or climb on hay bales.

The business also drew so much traffic to the region that he sometimes had to wait 10 minutes just to leave his own driveway, Fibi said.

“At its peak, it can make Whitemud (Drive) at four o’clock in the afternoon look like child’s play.”

But his biggest beef was with the pumpkin cannon used during Halloween.

“This pumpkin cannon at its peak will fire at least once per minute every minute from as early as 8 a.m. to as late as 8 p.m.,” he said, harming his livestock and his enjoyment of his property.

He also said that Prairie Gardens owner Tam Andersen and her staff had not returned repeated phone calls and had not lived up to the “good neighbours” part of their noise mitigation plan.

Fibi noted that others had raised similar complaints about Prairie Gardens during the recent land use bylaw public hearing.

In an interview, Andersen disputed many of Fibi’s remarks, saying her business had operated within the limits set by its special events permit and that she was “completely unaware” of his issues until recently.

The pumpkin cannon runs on five weekends each year and is only in operation from noon to 4 p.m., Andersen said.

“We don’t even have staff on site at eight in the morning.”

As for late weddings, she said she followed the City of Edmonton’s noise bylaw rules that required no noisy activities after 10 p.m. and for everyone to head home by 11.

“There is nobody, ever, on site partying until two in the morning.”

Fibi said he spoke with Andersen directly Monday night and hoped that many of his concerns would now be addressed.

Still, he called on council to create a noise and a community standards bylaw that would set time limits on noisy activities not related to farming, such as special events and weddings.

“The only issue is that cannon,” he said.

“I can live with a crowd. I can’t live with an artillery piece in my backyard.”

Noise bylaw

In an interview, Fibi suggested a cut-off time of 11 p.m. for noisy events, which was similar to one used by the City of Edmonton. Any exceptions should require consultation with neighbours prior to approval.

“If anything like this had happened in the City of Edmonton or in a city environment, I wouldn’t be just the only one complaining.”

Andersen said she would be fine with an 11 p.m. cut-off, and said a bylaw based on Edmonton’s would create common rules for all.

The county has had on-going problems at Prairie Gardens that have gotten “worse and worse” over the years, said Mayor Tom Flynn. Council had to address the legislative gap between events that were and were not covered by its special events bylaw, and needs to improve its enforcement of special event permits.

Flynn said council would continue to work on this issue.

Correction

This story originally said that the pumpkin cannon operated from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. This is actually when staff are on site at Prairie Gardens during the days the cannon is operational. The cannon actually runs from noon to 4 p.m.

Kevin Ma: Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.