Neil

by Neil Carleton

The April 2013 decision of the Ontario Court of Appeal shut down Marked Paintball & Laser Tag, which had operated since 2007 at 4120 Vaughan Side Rd. in West Carleton.  This location is just east of Mississippi Mills.  In a long legal battle, the Court upheld a decision that the business had been operating in an area that was never legally zoned for paintball operations.

It was a popular destination for paintball enthusiasts.  In its investigations, CBC News reported that the business made about $6000 profit on an average weekend throughout the year, including paintball parties.  This coverage of the controversial business is available on-line at http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/paintball-tagged-bagged-after-ottawa-court-battle-1.1394264.

While the site attracted plenty of paying customers, some people living nearby were selling their homes and moving away.  For years many rural residents near the business had spoken out against the operation.  They complained that the paintball park was intrusive and noisy, and the traffic was too much for the country area.  It seems that living near awfully mean neighbours was the problem according to the business owners.  Hugh Adami’s revealing article in the Ottawa Citizen on July 21, 2010, is available on-line at http://www.mcarterbrown.com/forums/dead-zone/128101-local-paper-war-breaks-out-over-paintball-park.html.

Following the Court’s decision, the lawyer for the City of Ottawa reflected that the costly legal battle could have been avoided if the owners, Allie and Däg Militky, had pursued a zoning amendment.  This is in fact their intention for 13259 Highway 7 (near the Ferguson Falls Road) in Drummond / North Elmsley Township of Lanark County.

A paintball operation is being proposed for the site, and the zoning amendment will be the subject of a public meeting with Drummond / North Elmsley Council on Tuesday, January 28 at 6:00 p.m.  The meeting will be held at the Township Hall, 310 Port Elmsley Road, just south of Highway 43, about half way between Smith’s Falls and Perth.  Any person may attend.

An introductory video to the sport of paintball titled ‘This Is Paintball’ is available on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3IPyhnx-dlk.  This is a game, played around the world, where participants simulate military combat using compressed air or Co2 powered guns to shoot capsules of paint at each other.  Speedball is played in an open field filled with inflatable bunkers, and woodsball is played in natural surroundings.

A wide variety of guns, from pistols to machine gun look-alikes, are used around the world by paintball enthusiasts.  Photo by Piotr VaGla Waglowski, public domain, Wikimedia Commons
A wide variety of guns, from pistols to machine gun look-alikes, are used around the world by paintball enthusiasts. Photo by Piotr VaGla Waglowski, public domain, Wikimedia Commons

The 62.3 ha (154 acre) property, described as Part of Lot 24, Concession 12 in the Township of Drummond, currently contains a dwelling and several agricultural and equestrian related outbuildings.  The proposed Zoning By-law Amendment would rezone the land from Rural to Highway Commercial- Special Exception Zone with the purpose of permitting a place of recreation, including paintball range; restaurant; retail store; office; and commercial storage.

Residents are already at odds with this new development in their rural neighbourhood.  They’ve heard what happened at the previous business site from high profile media coverage.  If something like this arrives in Drummond / North Elmsley, who, some are questioning, could put up with the cacophony of paintball guns, yelling, screaming, profanity, etc., that was reported from the West Carleton site, and heard at times a kilometer away?

They’re also concerned about due process.  For good reason, the Township’s official plan does not permit this kind of activity on land zoned Rural.  Through public consultation leading to approval, the protection of the municipality’s rural character was deemed to be an important component of the official plan.  How, some are asking, could anything like a paintball park even be considered here?  Is something being rushed through?

Environmental questions abound too.  At the top of the list is how can the Township consider a zoning amendment without the required Environmental Impact Assessment?

Factors include a Provincially Significant Wetland, known species listed under the Endangered Species Act of Ontario, and woodland habitats of importance in the area.  Much could be at risk.

Concerned citizens sense that a treasured natural environment and their rural way of life is being threatened.  Look for a good turnout on January 28 at 6:00 p.m.  It’s expected to be standing-room-only.