A local spa owner created a storm of controversy when a letter he sent to Oro-Medonte council — asking the township to consider implementing an excessive noise bylaw — went viral locally.
On Oct. 29, Vettä Nordic Spa president and founder Eric Harkonen sent a letter to the mayor and members of the council complaining about “adult children” and others in the spa neighbourhood whom he said were using firearms for “skeet shooting” during the day.
"This obviously does not work for Vettä and our customers as we are creating a safe and tranquil Nordic spa setting,” Harkonen said in his letter.
In the letter, Harkonen also says he had received complaints regarding vehicles without a muffler that were driven near the spa's property on Line 3 N. in Oro-Medonte.
“This again is hurting our business and the tranquil setting,” he said.
Some community members were angered by Harkonen’s letter and took to social media to voice their displeasure.
“The entitlement is disgusting and shows the lack of research that actually went into the development of this property,” Emma Priestner commented on a Facebook post.
“The other amusing part is the owner trying to suggest 'steep penalties.' Maybe do your research before building a spa?”
Her post was shared 259 times and was commented on 73 times.
On a Facebook post published by RJ Motosport, a Midhurst motorcycle repair shop, locals were encouraged to write to Oro-Medonte’s council and mayor to state “how wrong this is to build a fancy spa in the country, then expect us all to change our way of life."
Harkonen said his letter to the township “may have been perceived the wrong way” which has led to “misinformation” being posted on social media.
“Social media is absolutely completely crazy,” he said. “It’s non-monitored, and it goes out of control.”
Harkonen says he was never campaigning to target ATVs; he stressed his only gripe is with “an abuse of" using off-road vehicles without mufflers.
“We were never ever against recreational vehicles,” he said. “Just against people not using mufflers.”
Harkonen says he doesn’t have any desire to change the rural character of Oro-Medonte.
“I’m a Northern Ontario, beer-drinking, ice-fishing, hunting, fishing dude,” he chuckled. “I’m almost of the type of fabric that they think I’m against; it’s kind of funny.”
Harkonen also says he never wanted any laws in regard to firearms changed. Rather, he said he just wanted to be a part of the conversation when it comes to using firearms near businesses and residential areas.
“There are 100 gunshots going off on a typical day on a Saturday,” he said. “We have to have a discussion about whether that should be allowed and practised near residents and businesses.”
In a written statement to OrilliaMatters, Mayor Randy Greenlaw says the township has been notified by Harkonen that he will not be proceeding with his request to have council possible bylaw changes related to his concerns.
“The township gratefully received extensive, constructive, and respectful communication regarding this matter,” he said. Thanks to the public for their feedback.”
Greenlaw says he recently met with Harkonen to discuss the issues and the reaction from the community.
“It became clear that his intention was never to encourage implementation of a noise ban throughout the municipality,” Greenlaw said. “It is important to remember the township will take a balanced approach for the benefit of all parties as we work with and build new businesses within Oro-Medonte.”