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Willow Creek council puts restrictions on ‘drifting’ sport

LAWRENCE GLEASON – GAZETTE CONTRIBUTOR
Strong opposition against the locally practiced motor sport “drifting” due to noise near residences in the Claresholm airport industrial area didn’t stop approval for the sport to continue.
Councillors with the MD of Willow Creek gave the sport the green light, but with restrictions limiting activity to two days per week and limited hours.
The sport of drifting is practiced on a cement pad at the Claresholm Industrial Park near the Claresholm airport, the lot owned by Jason Toone, a local farmer and founder of the Rocky Mountain Drift Club.
There are no noise by-laws in the Claresholm industrial park. That’s a problem for people living in residences in that area.
Most of their homes were built during the time the Claresholm airport was a major training base for allied pilots in World War Two and in the 1950s for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Those residences have been grandfathered in as the old hangars have become industrial park buildings for local industry.
“If one of those houses burned down it might not be able to be rebuilt,” said Mike Burla, senior planner for the Oldman River Regional Planning Commission, advising council.
In the area, too, are those who have made their home in their workplace. Murray Frame and family have made their home in a portion of his Frame Aviation shop.
About 10 people living near the Claresholm industrial park, including Frame, showed up to voice their concern about the sport of drifting, with strong complaints about noise and smell of tires.
Not one resident in the area was supportive of the sport.
“It’s noisy,” Jeanette Longworth told councillors.
Terrell Woodward, a resident of the area for seven years, expressed sympathy for those who enjoyed a hobby, but said her own hobby, horses and rodeo, didn’t bother neighbours.
“You’d never know when I’m involved with my hobby.”
Woodward said the weekend noise was so loud from the drifting car drivers she and her family could not enjoy their yard and had to move inside their house.
“We could hear the noise inside our house.”
Woodward said she knew Toone, and was surprised when she learned he was involved with the drifting club.
“This is your hobby, but this is my home,” Woodward said. “Never once did anyone from that club knock on my door and visit and see how we can work it out.”
Another woman, an area resident, said she had a recent heart attack and to relax liked to enjoy her yard but finds it impossible to be outside when drifting is conducted. She also said she can hear it indoors.
Deborah Mesi said the noise was, “Really loud.”
Mesi added, “There are skid marks and circle marks all over the place. Drifting is basically driving and oversteering so the wheels go side to side. It is stunt driving.”
Jason Toone, the founder of Rocky Mountain Drift Club, with a membership of 52, now including members from as far away as Saskatchewan and British Columbia, was not pleased with the strongly negative comments.
Toone said he had tried to contact people living in nearby residences to let them know what the drifting club was doing.
“They could have come to me and talked to me about it instead of it being a gong show here,” Toone said.
Toone added if any club member was found stunting on shared roads to and from the drifting site their membership in the club would end.
“I am a farmer. We believe in getting along with neighbours,” said Toone, adding everyone was welcome to take a look at what they were doing and could even get a ride in the cars.
“We have taken steps to reduce the noise. We have done the best with what we have.”
The club has put up bales of hay three tiers deep to attempt noise abatement.
Toone said the car club was performing drifting in an industrial park where there is no noise by-law.
“I can hear spray planes taking off at 5:30 in the morning trying to make a business. I rent every piece of land around the airport. Sometimes I am combining at 2 a.m. out of necessity.”
But Murray Frame said the noise is different with a spray plane’s engine loud for 20 seconds in taking off while the cars drifting are noisy for eight hours at a time.
Toone said the sport was added value to Claresholm with visitors involved in the sport.
“If we have 30 cars out there everyone is going to buy a tank of gas. I was told if we could get a day just for Penticton I could get 20 cars out here.”
The Rocky Mountain Drift Club has made a video on social media that has had 40,000 views from as far away as Australia and Japan where drifting is a popular sport.
“Wouldn’t it be awesome if we were that kind of destination,” Toone said.
After hearing both sides councillors discussed the issue behind closed doors then made their decision to allow the sport but only two days per week, one weekday from 4-8 p.m. and one weekend day from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Another condition was that proof of insurance for the drifting club must be presented annually.

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