Sarnia has rejected a London Line concert venue’s request for a noise bylaw exemption, siding instead with a nearby seniors’ community that objected to the noise.
Valley Axe co-owner Bo Tait asked for an exemption to offer nine live outdoor shows if lockdown restrictions ease this summer – five music events and four comedy shows.
But councillors rejected that plan after residents of Green Haven Estates retirement community presented a 175-name petition and complained the amplified sound negatively impacts their quality of life.
Tait said he was disappointed by the council’s decision, especially after it approved two events last October and pledged to consider more dates this year.
Tait had also pledged to donate a portion of outdoor-event proceeds to local charities.
“It was a pretty big blow considering the last 12 months that we’ve had,” he said after the Feb. 8 meeting.
“The (Green Haven) representative clearly stated he was perfectly fine with one music event a month. I made my amendment tailored to what had been said. It was a goal-post move, no one was willing to give in at all, and council supported that.”
Valley Axe opened on four acres beside Hiawatha Horse Park in 2016. Before the pandemic it offered axe-throwing leagues, beach volleyball and live entertainment.
After patrons and revenue dried up last year the business was surviving on live shows, Tait has said.
Three councillors and Mayor Mike Bradley supported Valley Axe’s request. Five councillors backed Green Haven’s residents.
“They were there first,” said Coun. Margaret Bird.
Coun. Bill Dennis, normally an advocate for small businesses, said he was disappointed the parties couldn’t reach a deal and sided with the neighbours.
He experienced the noise level himself when he visited Green Haven during an event at Valley Axe last fall, he said.
“Had I not been there I wouldn’t have been able to appreciate just how loud the music was. Several residents told me they would actually sell their property if this was approved.”
Coun. Nathan Colquhoun, who voted for the noise bylaw exemption, suggested residents of the 225-home Green Haven enclave take advantage of the shows next door.
“It would be nice if the residents stayed up to 11 p.m. that night, and went and had some fun at a local business and included them in their community,” he said.
Mayor Bradley noted compromises were found for noise conflicts in the past, including outdoor shows at Bayfest and Paddy Flaherty’s.
“We always found a middle ground and a lot of the fears were not proven in the end,” Bradley said.
“We have talked about assisting business… and I see this as a reasonable compromise.”