Mono councillors feel they were duped about a south Asian festival involving flying kites and the number of people that were expected to take part.

Basant Mela is the spring festival of kites to many people in northern India and in Pakistan’s Punjab province. It traditionally welcomes the spring season. But, as Mono council discussed during its July 18 meeting, it’s a little more than watching a few kites take flight in the sky above the Orangeville Agricultural Society’s Fairgrounds.

“We were sandbagged over the kite-flying, combative kite-flying,” said Mayor John Creelman.

He said town staff continue to deal with the fallout from the Basant Mela event in early July.

“This has been a really, really difficult and time-consuming issue for staff, and for myself, and maybe my colleagues as well in terms of dealing with all the incoming emails and various opinions both for an against this event,” he said. “I think one of us said it well to the effect that they felt blindsided … duped by the fact that kite-flying was I don’t think ever referred to at least in the initial submission to us.”

He said promotional material he’d seen beforehand included a poster that had a tiny kite in a corner.

“You’d never know from their promotion exactly what this was about,” Creelman said. “We heard what it was about from their opposition.”

Creelman charged that event organizers used images of him and other local politicians in promotional materials. It was as if the mayor and others had endorsed the event.

“As if we were somehow co-sponsoring this event,” Creelman said. “I never agreed to that at all.”

He said he drive by at about 2 p.m. the day of the event because he said opponents to the festival released on social media misinformation that the event was cancelled.

“Rumour has it that they had … 7,000 to 9,000 people,” Creelman said. “I spoke to one person who said that the entire Fairgrounds parking lot and overflow area was jam-packed at 11 o’clock at night.”

Deputy Mayor Fred Nix said council wasn’t aware when a special occasion permit was sought that the event would include kite-flying.

Nix said he spoke with representatives from the Orangeville Agricultural Society, the group that runs the Fairgrounds, who was indeed aware kites would be flown. However, Nix said nobody knew the flying would involve kite aerial combat.

“There’s kite-flying in Mary Poppins,” Creelman said. “This was not Mary Poppins.”

Councillor Elaine Capes said she attended the festival and was treated very well. But she said she was introduced to many people and didn’t meet the event applicant.

“I’m not sure if the applicant from the original application to the town was actually part of the organizing committee or not,” she said. “Or if the organizing committee had just approached that person because they had a property.”

Capes said she thought that was “interesting.”

Creelman said the town has received noise complaints associated with Basant Mela.

“I don’t think we as a community want to have this event next year,” said Nix. “To the best of my knowledge we have no ability to tell the (Orangeville Agricultural Society) who they can or cannot rent their facilities to, so we’re sort of stuck.”

He said there’s an avenue Mono could pursue: A ban on flying kites in the municipality.

Such a move would cause problems for a child who wants to fly a kite in his backyard. But bylaws are enforcement-driven, Nix said.

“First of all, who would complain about a kid flying a kite?” he said. “I’d doubt anyone would. Even if they did and it was frivolous, our bylaw officers have the ability to use discretion as to what they enforce.”

Otherwise, Nix said, nuance of language could be used against mass kite-flying or kite fighting.

“That’s my suggestion,” Nix said.

Capes said the property owner who applied for the town to allow the event “was probably monetizing his property” and told council there would maybe only be 1,500 people on the property.

“Then you’ve got over 7,000 that show up,” Capes said. “This is not just a fun … potluck. This was a money-making deal.”

What’s particularly vexing is that participants put a kite in the air only to let it go.

“As if litter doesn’t matter,” Capes said. “If it’s up in the air, it’s not garbage. … It’s infuriating.”

Creelman suggested Mono council adopt a wait-and-see approach as to what the Town of Orangeville will do bylaw-wise to address such events in the future. Other Ontario municipalities have been working to address such fallout.

Coun. Ralph Manktelow said it’s important to highlight so the community is aware council isn’t taking the fallout lightly.

Creelman said there’ll be a record of the discussion but no direction taken pending moves made by other municipalities.

“And it’s apparent that council is going to take action on this issue,” Manktelow said.

Capes suggested that the noise complaints be taken as seriously as well.

“I have on this cellphone a message,” Creelman said. “You can hear the noise. You can almost dance to it. And it is time-dated because the individual who sent it to me put their watch in view on it.”

Fred Simpson, the town’s clerk, said perhaps a look at the municipal noise bylaw will be high on council’s priority list in future.

“We can pursue drafting a new or revised noise bylaw that I think may be, hopefully, easier to defend and prosecute under,” Simpson said.

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By James Matthews, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Aug 04, 2023 at 08:06

This item reprinted with permission from   Orangeville Citizen   Orangeville, Ontario

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