Things got a little frosty during the Chilly Half Marathon delegations.

 November 19, 2013

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON. The item on the Agenda was to approve the Special Events Team plans for 2013/14.    The Staff report recommended that Staff be given authority to approve  events that have taken place previously and have gotten a successful post event reports and that they be given the authority to automatically approve minor events.

There are 151 events on the calendar with attendances that range from less than 25 to more than 200,000 people. More than 635,000 people took part in events during 2012.

The creation of the Special events Team has streamlined the process with everything coming to the one committee that includes:  Parks and Recreation, Roads and Parks Maintenance, Fire, Building, Transportation, Transit, Health Department and Halton Regional Police Services. This gets everyone at the same table.  The process now has staff from Parks and Recreation and Transportation meeting and passing information along to others.  It wasn’t working.

The city came up with a collection of “process improvements” that Council has been asked to approve.  After a long and arduous meeting the Standing Committee agreed to receive and file the report which will bring it back to Council on the 25th where it should get approved.   Much needed changes were made; Kudos to staff on this one.

The following are new events scheduled for 2013/14: Ride for Betty, St. Timothy’s Run, Move – a-thon, Yoga by the Pier, Epic Ride, Spin for Limbs, Miles for Smiles, This Magic Moment Concert and the Marque d’Elegance Street Festival

There was a two-line mention in the report about the Chilly Half Marathon that has taken place in March of each year since 2009.

“Chilly Half Marathon has been questioned by a resident affected by the event. The resident who is requesting  rerouting will be delegating at the committee meeting.” That was an understatement.  Lakeshore residents turned in a petition with 150 names and had 10 people delegating to the Standing Committee – they did not want the Marathon being run along Lakeshore Road. After more than two hours of delegations and discussion they were still at it.

The race is a major event for the city.  The Esso station at the eastern end of the race losses out but the downtown core does exceptionally well.

The race “officially” starts at 10:05 which puts it smack in the middle of church time.  It is scheduled to run for 3 hours and 15 minutes. And that’s the problem for the people whose streets run into Lakeshore from the south side – they are basically land-locked for the duration of the race.  Starting the race earlier is an option – some suggested starting as early as 7:00 am and being done by 10:00 am.  That would take away from the excitement and momentum that builds up and probably cut down on the attendance.

Is there a compromise out there that will work?  Were people willing to meet with open minds?  There wasn’t much of that to be seen at the Standing Committee meeting.

When the Santa Clause parade takes place on Guelph Line and New Street a lot of people get locked in and there is nowhere near the number of complaints that the Chilly Half generates.  Why the difference?  Mostly attitude on the part of the people who are inconvenienced.  Those along New Street see the Santa Clause  parade as part of the season they take part in.  The Lakeshore people don’t see the Chilly Half Marathon as something they are a part of.

Not everyone was opposed to the event. Colin Cameron, Pastor at the Holy Cross Evangelical Lutheran Church took the position that if you can’t beat them – then work with them.  He stands out on Lakeshore Road during the race offering Blessings and fresh fruit to the runners as they work their way back towards Brant Street – all 5000 of them.

The good pastor told of an 80-year-old parishioner who took issue with a police officer who wasn’t prepared to let her drive her car along Lakeshore Road.  When asked what she would do her response was: “Well they are going to have to catch me aren’t they?”

Pastor Cameron in his refreshingly amusing comments referred to those who take part in the marathon as member of the St. Mattress and All Sheets parish.  He talked as well about how his church coped with all the runners on Lakeshore on that Sunday in March.

Other residents objected to being locked in their homes while the marathon takes place.  Traffic from all of the side streets on the south side of Lakeshore Road have their access limited while the race takes place.  That can be very frustrating and a significant concern as was evident from several of the delegations.

Dr. Rita Moeinafar-Combden  wanted the race organizers to be more forthcoming with their for profit agenda and stop hiding behind the veil their modest donations to the hospital.

Carol and Ian Milne Smith pulled Edmund Burke into the debate with his remark that “All government …is founded on compromise and barter” and the Milne-Smith don’t see much of either.

Nick and Dianne Leblovic delegated as a tag team – she spoke first and complained that the public process has failed  and she wants city council to be responsive to public input – which if they delegations were fully understood they wanted the road opened so that caterers could get to the streets that run south of Lakeshore road.

Ms Leblovic maintained the city reneged on a commitment they made last May which was when they decided to do their own research and knock on doors and hold meetings.

They do flood the streets.

They met with the churches, they got names on a petition and while they believe it is a great event they want a change in the route.  The Leblovic research revealed that the amount donated to the hospital was far less than many people imagined and that seems to have changed a lot of minds.

Ms Leblovic argued that more than 5000 people are locked into their homes for more than four hours.  People do have limited access to Lakeshore Road while the race is being run.  Traveling along Lakeshore Road this past three months has been limited due to the new water and sewage pipes being put down. 

Ms Leblovic would like to see the race started much earlier and points out that sunrise on March 2, 2014 is 6:54 am.  Is a change in the start time an accommodation the race organizer and the city can make?  Ms Leblovic also pointed out that some consideration has to be given to “rolling openings” as well as putting caps on the number of participants.  Her list of concerns has merit: what it doesn’t have, apparently, is enough meat on the bones to attract city staff to meeting with her to bring about some changes.

Nicholas Leblovic followed his wife to the podium and presented three alternate routes that he felt had merit.  One was a loop around Mainway that would have the runners going through an industrial community; a second along the Waterfront Trail to Confederation Park in Hamilton and a third that used parts of Lakeshore Road and the North Service Road.

None compares all that favourably to the current Lakeshore route, however the Waterfront Trail route does have merit.

Mr. Leblovic wanted to see a committee created with representation from VR Pro, city staff and the Leblovic group.  Staff doesn’t want to see any such committee and VR Pro will take part only if they have to.

As we listened to the delegations it was apparent that there is some significant hardship for some people.  It was also evident that many of the Lakeshore residents just plain don’t want that race in their community and evident as well that the city isn’t going to do all that much about the complaints.

The Leblovic’s and the community they represent have a legitimate concern that is not being addressed.  Both Diane and Nicholas could see the writing on the wall and left the Standing Committee meeting before all the talking between council and staff had been completed.

Councillor Meed Ward did feel that a committee could be struck that would have staff and the Lakeshore residents meeting to iron out the problems – and there are some problems.  She couldn’t get anyone to vote with her for a committee.  Staff was happy with what they have, Kelly Arnott loves the situation and it looks as if things will not change.  There are people living south of Lakeshore Road who are being short-changed.  Will this become a political issue in the Oct 2014 election?  Think you can bet on that.

Greg Pace who organized the Moon in June event delegated as well.  He has gone along with a change staff suggested that will have his event rolled into the Sound of Music Festival.  What got Pace all kinds of brownie points was the revelation that 41% of his race revenue goes to a charity.  Pace did ask Staff to reserve the date he had last year so that he can go back to that date if things don’t work out with his race becoming part of the Sound of Music program.

The finish line

Kelley Arnott of V-Pro also delegated and did her best to answer the questions put to her. There was a lot of spin to the answers given.  Many people thought the Marathon was an event to raise funds for the hospital.  The hospital does get some money from the marathon – it was difficult to nail Arnott down on exactly how much had been given in donations and she wasn’t prepared to let anyone near the financial records of the organization but she did say she would make financial statements available to council members on a confidential basis.

What the public saw was two sides with markedly different interests.  The Lakeshore residents who resent Lakeshore Road being closed led by the Leblovic’s who deeply resent the closure.  One Council member described Diane Leblovic as a determined activist.  You can bet on her not giving up on this issue.  

One the other side there was Kelly Arnott who runs a very popular and profitable race; that is the business her company is in and they do this very well.   VR Pro appears to organize about a dozen races each year.  Their Chilly Half race is seen as the standard for the running community.  Arnott put out the figure of $3 million as the amount they have raised for charities.  What she would not say is what percentage of the revenue raised gets into the hands of the hospital.   

VR Pro pricing schedule

VR Pro earns its money from registration fees which come in at basically $75 per racer for the Chilly Half Marathon.  The number of actual racers seemed to vary.  One report had it at 5000, Arnott seemed to be saying it was 4000 and there was a projection of 6000 for the 2014 event.  Use the lowest number and multiply that by the $75 fee and you come up with a substantial $300,000 in revenue.  Yes there are expenses but the Chilly Half Marathon is one hot revenue generator for VR Pro.

Arnott said her revenue was $340,000 from the race in 2012 and that expenses came in at $300,000

The Burlington restaurants love the event.  The operator of the No Frills supermarket on Brant has no love for the event NAME says the runners park their cars in his lot and plug it up leaving no space for his regular customers.

The Esso station at the turning point for the run doesn’t like it – he closes his gas station for the day – no one can get to his station and he resent losing a day’s revenue.

City staff want the event to continue and have come to the conclusion that the current route is the best one available.  The runners love the route – it is flat and the view along the road suits them just fine.

Despite several attempts on the part of Council members to have a committee formed staff said again and again that a committee set up to guide their thinking was not needed.

Nick Leblovic has been a part of civic life for a long time. He served as the Chair of the Waterfront Access Protection and Advisory Committee/ Diane Leblovic once served as a school board trustee. In this photograph Leblovic is seen on the right.

Mayor Goldring told the meeting that he and Councillor Dennison had offered to meet with the Leblovic’s but the offer was turned down which was enough for Councillor Craven.  He took the position that the city offered to help – the offer was turned down – and that was it.  The Leblovic’s are adamant – if you don’t want to talk about a route change then there won’t be much of a conversation with them.

The Leblovic’s have an ongoing issue with public access to property.  An article in the Orangeville Citizen, a community newspaper that has been around since 1974, reported that a “property squabble can be traced to 2001, when Nicholas Leblovic, a Toronto lawyer with a summer home on Balm Beach, made the first application under the Boundaries Act to extend his property line to the water’s edge. But the Marion’s are the only ones to cordon off their property — even though any of the others could do the same, transforming the beach into barricaded corridors.”

The news article went on to say: “Thankfully, Kim Craitor, Liberal MPP for Niagara Falls, has introduced a private member’s bill, the Great Lakes Shoreline Right of Passage Act, which would guarantee the public’s ability to walk all the shorelines of the Great Lakes. It’s now awaiting committee review and surely should be approved, either as is or as a government bill with the same purpose.”

The news article concluded by saying: “As we see it, this should be a matter for our legislators, not the courts. Provincial law should reflect a clear (overwhelming?) public interest in having all the Great Lakes shoreline accessible to everyone, not just a relative handful of rich property owners.”

The Standing Committee received and filed the Staff report which one can expect to see made final at Council on the 25th.  Chilly Half Marathon will take place on Sunday March 2, 2014.

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4 comments to Things got a little frosty during the Chilly Half Marathon delegations.

  • Concerned about Burlington

    Of course that was Craven’s position. Why am I not surprised!

  • Chris Ariens

    Why not just let people who live S. of Lakeshore park their cars on one of the side streets North of Lakeshore before the event starts. It may be an inconvenience, but doesn’t mean they have to be “trapped in their homes” – there are solutions. Part of living in the most lovely part of a vibrant city is that there will sometimes be events going on. This event draws tourists from all over the region, and gives Burlington a tremendous amount of recognition.

  • Seems to me the Special Events Team is a good idea. Bringing all those concerned around the same table. Bumpy starts don’t mean you loose the race. Pun intended.

  • resident

    After reading this article and others I am wondering how the potential Water Street Parkette (between St. Paul and Market streets) would have been affected by the proposed ‘Great Lakes Shoreline Right of Passage Act’. City council voted against the concept of waterfront access that this act would have encouraged.