PUSLINCH — The show will go on.
Shawn Gusz has his permit to run his popular and elaborate Christmas display at his Fox Drive home during the evenings from Dec. 19 to Dec. 26.
But it comes at a cost.
Council decided to allow Gusz’ Christmas display with the condition that he pay for one police officer to manage traffic in the area for the less busy weekdays and two police officers to do so during Friday and the busier weekend period.
Council preciously approved Gusz's application under a new bylaw limiting such displays. That was appealed by a neighbour.
On Wednesday council heard an appeal by John Holford, claiming that the previously given permit for Gusz’ Christmas display is leading to several concerns.
One issue is the potential for traffic-related accidents.
“One of our residents witnessed a child nearly run over by a car in the dark, as the child was walking to view the show in the middle of the road at 20 Fox Run,” Holford told the council.
Another problem is the traffic congestion caused by the display and its viewers.
“Because of the volume of traffic at the show, we know of personal support workers and home care workers having to abandon their vehicle on Gordon/Brock Road … walking into the subdivision to care for their elderly and ailing patients,” Holford continued.
Gusz also spoke at the meeting to defend the annual holiday event and speak to the appeal. They noted that there are only a few people against the display and that the council's response has been excessive.
“However, over time, I have come to determine that it is three or four who are strongly against it, including the Holfords and the Hoggs, both of which wrote letters. Instead of operating in an informed and democratic manner, the township proceeded to create this bylaw just to restrict our display,” Gusz said.
“Just leave me alone,” Gusz went on to say.
Mayor James Seeley took a moment to explain the necessity of the bylaw, permit and appeal.
“I wanna' just make a point here. The only concern we have with Mr. Gusz’ Christmas decorations is the projector and the transmitter for the audio," Seeley said.
"He can decorate his house with as many Christmas decorations as anyone else can in this township. The bylaw officers are not driving around trying to police Christmas decorations and looking for people to apply for permits," Seeley said.
"This is where you’re turning a residential area into a drive in theatre. It’s not appropriate,” Seeley said.
In March, the council created Bylaw 2022-008, setting up a permit process for publicized displays in Puslinch. The problems the bylaw is meant to overcome are nuisances for the public and possible safety risks.
On Oct. 12, the township got Gusz’ application for a publicized display at his home. Staff reviewed the application and on Oct. 17, they decided that Gusz would be awarded their permit for a publicized display.
On Nov. 3, the township had the notice of application and approval for the event provided to local properties and other impacted parties.
On Nov. 10, the township got a notice appealing the permit given to Gusz for their display. In the following days, the township received two more letters expressing concern about the potential, upcoming Christmas event.
Jesse Gault is the Local Journalism Initiative reporter for GuelphToday. LJI is a federally-funded program.