CAMBRIDGE — A public meeting over whether to grant special zoning to a Cambridge paintball business lasted more than five hours on Tuesday, with most speakers arguing in favor of keeping the business on Kossuth Road.
Many spoke of the friendships made and memories built playing paintball over the years at Flag Raiders Paintball, while others, including neighbors, shared concerns about noise, extra traffic and environmental concerns.
Councilors listened as many delegations asked the council to allow the Flag Raiders to operate at 1500 Kossuth Rd., land that siblings Corey and Joe Kimpson have owned since 1999.
But at the heart of the matter is that the property – 24 hectares between Speedsville Road and Beaverdale Road with a woodland and wetlands – is zoned as prime farmland.
Municipal and regional zoning prohibits the operation of a paintball business on site.
To start their business on the property, the Kimpsons had to apply for a temporary use by-law. The three-year retainer was granted by city staff twice. On the third try, the city denied the request after neighbors complained.
Flag Raiders moved to Bingemans in Kitchener where it lasted 13 years. He was forced out last year when Bingemans sold the land for development.
For the past year, the Kimpsons say they have been working with the city to bring their business back to their property at 1500 Kossuth Rd.
In a last-ditch effort, the Kimpsons applied for a zoning order from the minister to salvage what was left of their season. The fast-track measure allows the province to circumvent normal municipal planning and zoning procedures.
The Board has yet to publicly discuss MZO’s application.
Neighbors say the land is not zoned for business and the Flag Raiders need to find another location.
Michele Dickinson, who lives on Beaverdale Road, said at the public meeting that her concerns were not about whether paintball as a sport is family-friendly or whether the Kimpsons are good businessmen who give back to their lives. community.
“We don’t dispute that,” she said.
“The Kimpsons seem determined to put the proverbial square peg in a round hole,” Dickinson said, referring to efforts to locate the business on property not zoned for that use.
Planner Bruce Brown, who represents some neighboring residents, said the Kimpsons “failed to do their due diligence” when they bought the land.
The Kimpsons have had years to find another location to run their business, Dickinson said.
Dickinson and other residents have spoken of finding sinkers on their property and excessive noise at tournaments.
The council heard from paintball companies that the sport has evolved and that paintball markers are less noisy from compressed air and are non-toxic and biodegradable.
Other paintball businesses in Ontario told the council they were on land zoned agricultural, with special exemptions.
Flag Raider supporters say the sport has grown to include families and people from all walks of life.
Jeremy Newton-Smith, who lives in Seattle and is a Google tech, told the board that his “best memories” came from playing Flag Raiders paintball with his father. He said the activity increased his confidence and leadership skills in coaching others and working as a referee.
Those unfamiliar with the sport might think paintball is a similar activity to war games, but enthusiasts say the description is an insult.
“Paintball is a sport. These are not random war games,” said Andre Critchlow, an Oakville paintballer.
“Anyone can play. You don’t have to be an elite athlete,” said Critchlow, who said his autistic son played paintball at Flag Raiders.
Donna Langman of Wasaga Adventure Park, a paintball company in Wasaga Beach, said paintball is “not a training ground for war-hungry terrorists.”
Instead, paintball “uses strategy to essentially play a game of tag,” Langman said.
Cambridge’s Carol Thorman told the council she wanted to see a solution to allow the Flag Raiders to operate on the property.
She said the area on Kossuth Road is already much busier with the Region of Waterloo International Airport, the Cambridge Butterfly Conservatory and the Fairway Road extension and roundabouts.
Thorman, who has hinted at her contempt for gun violence, especially after her sister Helen Schaller was shot dead in a Preston car park, said she supports Flag Raiders because it’s an outlet for young people and a sport for team and character building.
Cambridge staff will report to the board at a later date with a recommendation on how to proceed.
After listening to the delegations, all councilors said they, too, wanted to see a resolution for the Flag Raiders and neighbors.
‘I would like him to stay in this location and that we do our utmost for this and also consider the concerns of surrounding residents and consider appropriate mitigation measures,’ the councilor said. Nicholas Ermeta.