Councillors play it by ear, change tune on Valley Axe

Bo Tait is one of three owners of Valley Axe. Troy Shantz

Troy Shantz

A compromise has been found for a Sarnia retirement community and its sometimes-loud neighbour.

Valley Axe co-owner Bo Tait returned to council last week armed with a 1,800-name petition and a new offer to satisfy concerns about loud outdoor music shows at the London Road business.

Council agreed to Tait’s request for noise bylaw exemptions on five dates this year, on the understanding none will feature live music.

“We get it. Our neighbours don’t like guitars and drums, so there won’t be any,” Tait told council.

In February, Sarnia rejected Valley Axe’s request for nine outdoor events – including live music – and sided instead with the residents of Green Haven Estates, a nearby seniors’ community. Green Haven presented a 175-name petition, arguing the amplified sound coming over the fence negatively impacts their quality of life.

Hugh Kerr, a spokesperson for the neighbours, said he was disappointed by council’s latest decision, but added it’s acceptable if Valley Axe keeps its promise of no live music.

“If there’s not excessive noise, we don’t have a problem,” Kerr said after the meeting.

Bylaw exemptions have been granted for May 22, June 19, July 17, Aug. 21 and Sept. 18. Tait said live comedy shows and mixed martial arts events are likely options.

Supporting the request were councillors Mike Stark, George Vandenberg, Brian White, Terry Burrell, Nathan Colquhoun, Bill Dennis and Mayor Mike Bradley.

Opposed were councillors Margaret Bird and Dave Boushy.

Valley Axe opened in 2016 on four acres on the Golden Mile. Before the pandemic arrived, it offered axe-throwing leagues and tournaments, as well as beach volleyball and live entertainment.

Tait said he was pleased with the outcome, despite it being a “shadow” of the blanket exemption his team originally sought to deal with shifting COVID restrictions and unpredictable weather.

“I’m just happy that we could get council on board with something,” he said after the meeting.

His third appearance was a bid for survival, he said.

“When the success and survival of your business is on the line you have to keep pressing, you have to keep thinking,” said Tait.

“I have to ensure that when I’m able to make money and bring in revenue that I have every available option in order to best recover and grow.”

COVID-19 restrictions or bad weather could still shut down the upcoming events, he added.