District stance silences concert

The plug has been pulled on parties at a rural property and the Regional District of North Okanagan is being blamed.

The plug has been pulled on parties at a rural property and the Regional District of North Okanagan is being blamed.

RDNO directors issued a notice on title Wednesday on Fandango Farms on Irish Creek Road, on the west side of Okanagan Lake, because the district claims events attracting large numbers of people are being held in a residential building not designed or constructed to accommodate assembly uses.

“We won’t hold ticketed events under these circumstances,” said Ed Walter, Fandango Farms owner, adding that a scheduled Oct. 29 concert has been cancelled.

“The regional district has taken an inflexible stand on this.”

RDNO staff say attempts to have events halted or have the property owner bring the structure into compliance have been ignored.

“This is an issue of public safety. We’re here to enforce the building code,” said administrator Trafford Hall.

Staff states there have been more than 150 people at times in the 2,400-square-foot building, and it does not have a fire alarm system, sufficient exits, emergency lighting or proper structural load for floors and decks.

“If there are 200 people in there and the lights go out, someone will be hurt,” said Hall.

Fandango Farms began hosting potluck dinners a decade ago and that expanded to concerts that require paid tickets.

“We’ve been holding events for 10 years and the building hasn’t fallen down,” said Walter, who says he is willing to work with RDNO but adds it has refused to provide information about its safety concerns.

“Our events are protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms – freedom of assembly.”

The RCMP have cited security and drug concerns in the past about concerts at Fandango Farms.

“We have zero tolerance for open use of recreational drugs,” said Walter, who says private security is hired for concerts.

“Our gatherings bring happiness to hundreds of individuals. They’re love and peace and positive atmosphere.”

However, RDNO staff insist action must be taken to ensure the safety of people who visit the property and to reduce any potential liability to the regional district if someone is injured.

“It’s not about a criminal issue. It’s not a noise issue. It’s not about bad press. It’s not about rumours of behaviour. We’re acting on one thing – the building is being used for assembly which is a serious public safety issue,” said Hall.

While Walter says ticketed events will stop, he will continue with potlucks.

“Our events are private events on private land,” he said.

As a result, the board decided to proceed with the notice on title, which makes future property owners aware of the situation.

“It’s the duty of the board to protect the regional district. We have the issue of the structure and the issue of liability,” said director Mike Macnabb.