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Rock Of the Woods will rock Sahtlam woods next month

Folk rockers the Barefoot Thieves of Salt Spring Island get festival goers dancing Sunday during the final day of Rock of the Woods at Godfrey Brownell Vineyard in Glenora.  - Ashley Degraaf/file
Folk rockers the Barefoot Thieves of Salt Spring Island get festival goers dancing Sunday during the final day of Rock of the Woods at Godfrey Brownell Vineyard in Glenora.
— image credit: Ashley Degraaf/file

It might be small consolation to the residents who are going to have the Rock of the Woods festival in their backyard next month, but come next year, there will be a formal process in place making it harder to do.

Currently, the Cowichan Valley Regional District requires event organizers to apply for a temporary-use permit for events with 500 people or more. Rock of the Woods organizers expect 450 people to attend the three-day festival, being held July 25 to 27 near Sunrise Drive in the Sahtlam area, on the banks of the Cowichan River.

“There’s a hole in our regulatory process,” Loren Duncan, the CVRD’s Sahtlam director said. Because the number of anticipated attendees is under 500, no permit is required.

His area, Area E, is the test case for a new special events bylaw. The proposed bylaw has gone through first and second reading, had a public hearing June 12, but won’t be in effect in time for this year’s Rock of the Woods event.

“They’ll have to put up with this for this year,” Duncan said, adding his fellow directors are watching the situation with interest.

Next year, if Rock organizers want to host a similar event in Area E, they will have to go through a more formal process, with public meetings, consultation and process.

“It could take two to three months to go through the whole process, once the bylaw’s up,” Duncan said.

The CVRD director said there have been “minor concerns,” about the event, which has been staged in Glenora and Bamberton in past years. But from his communication with local mounties, Rock of the Woods has been a “well-regulated, well-run show.”

Event promoter Dave Bain said response was overwhelming positive from the door knocking that he did in the area in April.

Several residents are skeptical. They collected names on a petition, wrote letters and presented their concerns to a CVRD sub-committee earlier this month.

In an email sent to the News Leader Pictorial, Pauline and Gary Jackson expressed concerns about that number of people — with access to a beer garden — driving on the long and twisty road.

They’re also concerned about the noise level.

“Organizers say they would position the speakers away from the residential neighbours,” the Jacksons wrote. “Are you kidding? The music would bounce across the other side of the river and the bush and we would hear it. A DJ will be yapping his mouth off on speakers. CVRD, there’s a noise bylaw that there is no noise after 11 p.m., is there not?”

Other concerns expressed included an email from Gerald Thom, president of the Cowichan Lake and River Stewardship Society and Susan Kaufman about bank erosion, habitat destruction and the potential for fires.

A news release from Rock of the Woods outlined a number of its sustainable practices.

“Many music festivals leave behind large messes and have a negative impact on their grounds and within their communities,” the organization said.

“We have made it our top priority to set a new standard for how to run a music festival in an environmentally friendly and sustainable way.”

The organization promotes water recycling, a car pooling program and requests that vendors feature at least one locally sourced organic product on their menus. Staff sort through every bag of garbage and separate recyclable and non-recyclable garbage.

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