Kitchener city staff will explore guidelines for organizing large outdoor events at city facilities, after the announcement of Big Music Fest surprised city councillors who say they weren't informed of the event

The city council meeting on Monday night grew heated, and eight of the 10 councillors said they hadn’t been aware of Big Music Fest until recently. Coun. Kelly Galloway-Sealock said she first heard of the news from Twitter.

“[In] my opinion, it’s positive for the community as a whole,” Galloway-Sealock said.

“I understand why people would have liked to know before it hit the news, me included. You can think of the examples of when major concerts are going to hit the Auditorium, we usually get a little note before the announcement is going to be made, but we keep that confidential because that announcement needs to be made.”

Monday’s council meeting grew tense, as multiple councillors asked who had known about the festival in the first place.

Coun. Bil Ioannidis disclosed that he had been in contact with the festival organizers throughout the process. He said there was nothing unusual about the way it was handled, given the lack of policy around large-scale events in Kitchener.

“I feel staff and council have been extremely diligent in trying to find the appropriate balance between ensuring this event comes to Kitchener and ensuring that potential neighbourhood concerns are being addressed in the same professional manner with which other large events are managed in the city, such as Blues Festival, Multicultural Festival, Oktoberfest,” Ioannidis said.

Earlier in the evening, Coun. Paul Singh sought a motion that would require public consultation in introducing big events to the city. Councillors ultimately decided to ask staff to explore the issue and present recommendations at a June 9 committee meeting.

There was general consensus among councillors that Big Music Fest would be beneficial to the community, but concerns over parking were raised. Staff members who were present said a parking plan was being developed, and that initial work suggested there would be more than enough parking available.

A public information session on Big Music Fest is planned for April 16.