County MPC didn’t listen at paintball hearing

  • Aug. 24, 2010 3:09 p.m.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t take the chance this week to talk about a recently denied paintball facility in Red Deer County.

At the July 6 meeting of the county’s Municipal Planning Commission (MPC), Outcast Society Paintball laid out its case to build a new paintball park about halfway between Red Deer and Delburne, just off Hwy. 595.

After hearing from both the owner/operator of Outcast, Jordan Pagacz, as well as a few county residents, MPC decided to kybosh the application, choosing to believe the misinformation that is out there about the sport instead of giving the guy who was standing before them a chance to prove that he isn’t just out to make a buck.

You see, Pagacz is a professional paintballer.

He takes part in numerous tournaments throughout North America and Europe every year, and is looking to create a facility that will cater to serious players, not those out looking for an upgraded version of laser tag.

But Pagacz is also a smart man, and went into this process knowing that the County had had previous experience with paintball facilities owned by folks whose sole intention was to make money, regardless of the impact it had on the neighbouring properties.

After the hearing, MPC member and County Councillor Jim Wood told reporters that the proposed site is the wrong location for the facility and backed that assertion, saying the local community had problems with a different paintball centre a few years ago.

Complaints in that case ranged from problems with cattle being disturbed by the paintballing to farmers being shot at while on their tractors.

Keith Fox, one of the landowners opposed to the facility, told MPC that paintballers have been out at the property practicing and making lots of noise and are having an impact on the eight residences around it.

He said the noise level they’re already experiencing is annoying; and pointed out that the paintball centre might impact property values for homeowners.

Fox also had some concerns about traffic volumes, but to be fair, he did say he thinks the facility is a good idea, just not in its proposed location.

The issue I have with this whole process is that it seemed the decision had already been pre-determined.

Sure, Pagacz was given his obligatory floor time, and while MPC heard everything he said, I don’t think they actually listened.

Pagacz implored the MPC to give him the chance to prove that he wasn’t like previous owner/operators and that his whole motivation behind this was to put the sport first, not to make money.

But it was a plea that fell on deaf ears.

As you can probably tell, I happen to be someone who enjoys paintballing.

I wouldn’t call myself a paintball professional, but I do own all of my own equipment, and try and get out as much as I can to enjoy the sport.

I’ve visited and played in numerous facilities throughout Alberta, and yes, most of them are located in rural areas adjacent to farmland or pastures.

And yes, I’ve seen firsthand the problems landowners are fearful of experiencing.

But in those cases, offenders who broke the rules were immediately removed from the playing field by the field marshal and in some instances were banned from ever coming back to the park.

As far as the noise is concerned, I feel paintballing generates no more decibels than do the tractors, combines or cattle that work or feed nearby.

Pagacz, who plans to appeal the decision of the MPC, compares his fight to set up a paintball park to the early beginnings of skateboarding.

Once feared as the sport of vandalous, bored teenagers, you now see skate parks popping up all over the place as municipal officials realize that skateboarding isn’t the nefarious foe that many once thought it was.

So why then is Pagacz being forced to pay for the negligent actions of previous paintball centre operators?

My only hope is that Pagacz’s appeal finds a few more open eardrums than did his original application.

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