Kevin Anderson

KAPUSKASING – A neighbour dispute between Details Home Decor owner Norm LeBel and La Forge is putting this year’s annual Country Music Festival in jeopardy.

Details surrounding the squabble remained scarce even after speaking with both parties, but at the nucleus of the issue is a disagreement over property use and traffic congestion.

What is clear is the squabble has escalated and resulted in a stalemate, which has seen both parties attempt to outmaneuver each other, which had resulted in La Forge being rendered short on space to accommodate the multitude of campers, who routinely make their way to Kapuskasing for the annual event.

With that in mind, La Forge submitted a proposal to Kapuskasing Council to lease the property behind the site for the purposes of staging a temporary campsite every year for the next five years. The area would also be used for a community garden.

The agreement would see La Forge pay the municipality $2,000 per year for use of the property in order to cover the $10,000 investment by the municipality.

A caveat in the agreement would allow the municipality to forgo that fee on a year to year basis in exchange for the use of La Forge’s tent structure at the annual Lumberjack Heritage Festival.

The Planning Committee has recommended approval of the proposal. Council is expected to vote on the matter at its next Committees of the Whole/Council meeting.

The potential obstacles for the Festival do not end there however.

With La Forge’s property being zoned residential, the Planning Committee has also recommended that the organization apply for a “Temporary Use By-Law Amendment” in order to host the festival.

The potential snag is the “Temporary Use By-Law Amendment” (TUBLA), which would allow an exception for the residentially-zoned La Forge to hold the three-day event, is subject to objection by neighbouring property owners within a 400-foot radius.

A request to permanently re-zone the property could also be submitted by La Forge, but the same vulnerability to objections would exist.

Asked if La Forge had concerns that someone would contest the TUBLA, representative Florent Tanguay said he could only see one possible opposer.

“We’ve been doing this for seven years and no one has ever complained before,” he commented. “The only person I could see objecting is the one person who has been causing us grief over the last year.

“We feel this is a good event for the town. It brings in a lot of people from out of town, which is always good. I’d dare say the number of visitors we bring in rivals the Lumberjack Heritage Festival.

“We made a big investment last year in buying the big tent to house the festival and the proceeds from this year’s edition are meant to help us recuperate a portion of those costs, which we don’t think would be possible if we have to move it.”

It bears mentioning at this point that council did express to La Forge representatives, who attended Monday’s Committees of the Whole/Council meeting, that they would be more than willing to work with the local organization to relocate the festival, with Mayor David Plourde saying that any costs associated with a move would be “highly flexible”.

The Town’s offer was quickly rebuffed.

For his part, Lebel said outright that he would oppose the TUBLA.

“As a business owner, I can tell you that the weekend of that festival, we lost money in part because people couldn’t get to the store and (La Forge) were unwilling to do anything to help the situation,” said Lebel. “I don’t want to go into further details because I’m frankly sick of talking about it. Suffice it to say I don’t think very highly of the way the festival is conducted because it hurts my business.

“As far as I’m concerned, there won’t be a Country Music Festival next door to me this year. If they want to have their festival, they should move it somewhere like the arena which is properly zoned and equipped to handle it without negatively affecting my business.”