Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Sound of Music - with Herman Turkstra and Burlington Clr. Rick Craven

While our tag line "The Sound of Music" is somewhat trite, the issues surrounding Saracoa are far from trivial. The issue of the decibel levels of music played on its patio, and whether or not Saracoa was unfairly lead into an arrangement with the city that the city ought to have known was doomed to fail, continue to stir controversy, and are before the courts. Additionally, there is a parking issue involving the city's plans, that will impact Saracoa. The Hamiltonian has begun to explore these issues and we reached out to Herman Turkstra and Burlington Clr. Rick Craven as a starting point.

Here is our Q/A with Herman and Rick:

The following question were posed:

1. Given the history and the controversy around the agreement between the City of Hamilton and Sarcoa, do you support the notion that some sort of mediated solution and possible exception to the noise by-law as presently written, may be an appropriate path to take to resolve this matter? Or are you of the view that the by-law is the by-law and there ought to be no exceptions?

2. To the extent that you believe there may be room for a mediated solution, is there a form that would take that you believe would be acceptable to community stakeholders and residents? In other words, what might a solution look like?

Herman Turkstra's reply:

It may be helpful to bear in mind that the Sarcoa problem was only resolved when Burlington residents were able to involve their Mayor in the issue. It simmered in Hamilton for three years with little or no help from our own City Hall.

Harbour West Neighbours, an activist group in the North End neighbourhood, conducted research last year on noise by-laws in municipalities bordering Lake Ontario. Overwhelmingly, outdoor music is prohibited around the Lake. In Hamilton, that prohibition extends to every restaurant/bar patio in the City.

Any deal with Sarcoa alone raises very serious issues of fairness. When Sarcoa moved to outdoor music that lasted until 2 a.m. in the morning and was measured at more than 200% of MOE standards, Sarcoa took the 18-25 year old crowd of customers away from other Hamilton restaurants and bars which were complying with the by-law. I was advised that, in some cases, the reduction in customers was as much as a 50% diversion to Sarcoa, particularly in the case of several Hess Village operations. Thus, any change in the by-law needs to be applied across the City for all restaurants and bars.

If the prohibition is reduced across the city, I expect that any reduction in the current city-wide prohibition will engage residents throughout the City who live next to or close to patios. For Hess Village, for example, there are hundreds of apartments that would be impacted by a by-law change. The residents of those apartments were involved in a major effort to control Hess Village patio music and that war lasted for several years and was very lively. There are literally dozens of other sensitive locations where the patio music by-law protects residents. Any change would create huge conflicts.

In other words, the By-Law functions very well, is similar to what other cities do, and should not be changed. It may be helpful to consider that the By-Law simply enforces what the Courts have traditionally said - everyone has to consider their neighbours. The By-Law makes it unnecessary for residents to undertake expensive court action to stop unreasonable noise.

The only mediation needed is the amount of the damages to be paid by the City to Sarcoa for Waterfront Trust and the City having approved plans for a patio that I am told included plans for the installation of resources for sound equipment that inherently contravened the by-law. That damage mediation needs no input from community stakeholders. If our Mayor, (in his stated quest to move Hess Village to the waterfront as a welcoming gesture for the hundreds of people who are being invited to come to live in the future on Pier 8 next to Sarcoa) tries to change the by-law to permit live or amplified music on patios throughout the City to help Sarcoa's revenue stream and settle the lawsuit, I am confident there will be a strong push back from community stakeholders across the City including the North End neighbourhood. Much better to let sleeping dogs lie, leave the by-law alone and settle the law suit with Sarcoa with a cheque. The actions of the Waterfront Trust in this whole story are at the root of the problem.

Clr. Craven's reply:

No exceptions. The law is the law.

Please note: If anyone has an email address for either owner of Saracoa's, can you please send it to admin@thehamiltonian.info, or post it as a comment. We will not publish the email address, but will receive it. Thanks! The Hamiltonian


  1. Perhaps Rick could be a bit more concise in his comments.

    1. AnonymousJune 29, 2016

      The LOL is the LOL :)

  2. I agree with Turkstra's assessment of this matter and am miffed that the Waterfrtont Trust continues to operate the way it does.

  3. AnonymousJune 29, 2016

    Has The Hamiltonian asked our own city Counclor, Jason Farr?

    1. The Hamiltonian AdminJune 29, 2016

      We've reached out to Clr,. Farr and our Mayor for comments.

  4. AnonymousJune 29, 2016

    IIRC, Mr. Turkstra resides due south of the club and Councillor Craven resides pretty much directly across the harbour from the offending patio. They make a good tag team.

    No reasonable person could expect waterfront parks to be library-quiet, but neither should anyone expect to be treated like a tinpot dictator under siege by CIA noise cannons.

    Any good clubs/events make it a priority to be respectful of the neighbours. Try not to poke the bear.

  5. AnonymousJune 29, 2016

    Hamilton...the place where good ideas go to die a slow and painful death

  6. Sarcoa won't comply so shut them down

  7. AnonymousJune 29, 2016

    Looks like Craven cares about this more than Farr.

    1. AnonymousJune 30, 2016

      The building in which Sarcoa is located forms a crescent around the patio, which I imagine would focus sound off the northern tip of that pier, aiming it pretty much straight at Willow Cove on the other side of the bay.

      As noted above, Sarcoa is in Clr Craven's back yard. Around 1km of open water stands between him and Sarcoa's speakers (and water only seems to amplify sound) so I expect he’s attuned to this conflict in a pretty personal way. Not that Mr. Turkstra is not attuned or invested, but he’s hearing the sound system from Hamilton’s north end (ie. behind/beside the speakers), so I imagine he’s not enjoying the same decibel levels.

      This matter is also before the courts, with the City as a litigant, which tends to make councillors reluctant to comment publicly. Councillor Craven, to the best of my knowledge, is not in a legal battle with Sarcoa, which is partly why he has higher profile on this story. Clr Craven's narrative also helps stoke the coals of the drama, which makes pundits happy because a long-running story suddenly has fresh legs.

    2. AnonymousJune 30, 2016

      Sorry. That sounds like a cop out. If that were my ward and a burlignton councillor said that, i would not sit on my hands.

    3. AnonymousJune 30, 2016

      Has he or the mayor responded at all?

    4. AnonymousJune 30, 2016

      "If that were my ward and a burlignton (sic) councillor said that, i would not sit on my hands." Said what, exactly? "No exceptions. The law is the law." Has anyone on council said otherwise? The law is the law, sure. But isn't law also argued, contested, interpreted? And what does it mean that Sarcoa assumed its lease at a time when the property was owned by the federal government? I'm not saying that Sarcoa aren't being obnoxious, just that the legality clearly isn't black-and-white. If it were, the case would have been squashed before it got rolling.

    5. AnonymousJune 30, 2016

      "Looks like Craven cares about this more than Farr."

      In other words: Based on outward appearances, Councillor A appears to feel a certain way that is subjectively deemed superior to the outward appearance of inward feelings/beliefs of Councillor B.

      Allowing that "perception is reality," it's also possible that the reverse is true. How do you accurately assess another individual's belief system based on a seven-word pull-quote?

    6. AnonymousJune 30, 2016

      No....nothing about superior. One cared to comment. The other...who knows.... and it's his ward. Looks bad.

    7. AnonymousJune 30, 2016

      FWIW, the article itself indicated gat The Hamiltonian "reached out to Herman Turkstra and Burlington Councillor Rick Craven as a starting point." It is not intended as a comprehensive survey of opinions around the issue at hand. We're that the case, the story could have been held until such time as the City, the HWT and Sarcoa were able to offer comment, or offered equal opportunity to do so. And as much as some find council's reticence on this matter to be a cop-out, it may well be that the owners of Sarcoa are similarly circumspect as this matter is before the courts.

  8. AnonymousJune 30, 2016

    "Looks good/looks bad" vs "Looks better (superior) looks worse (inferior)." We're on the same page.

    Still assigns valuations to appearances that do not necessarily have any roots in objective reality.

  9. AnonymousJune 30, 2016

    It is very odd that a place would be allowed to set up shop, install a sound system, have live music and then be told that it is against the bylaw. Somebody dropped the ball.

    1. AnonymousJune 30, 2016

      "It is very odd that a car would be allowed to have an engine, gas pedal, and gears that would allow it to drive over a posted speed limit, then be pulled over by the police and told the same. Somebody dropped the ball."

      Logic doesn't work here. Who says they even had formal approval from the city for the install? Who from the city confirmed this?

    2. The feds said bylaws didn't apply to their properties. It's still an issue with other properties

  10. AnonymousJuly 01, 2016

    I don't think this whole mess does anything good for the city. Maybe Try Hamilton should showcase this mess.

  11. Apparently two former Hamilton mayors are now registered lobbyists representing Sarcoa's interests. (Bonus points: One is also a lobbyist for Terrapure's 60% expansion of the Taro dump.)



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