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Decision split for neighbours riled by loud outdoor music

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Troy Shantz

A London Line live music and entertainment venue can host two more already scheduled late-night shows, despite complaints from sleepless neighbours upset by the noise.

But city council stopped short Monday of granting Valley Axe the blanket noise bylaw exemption it sought for all of 2021.

“It wasn’t an outright denial. We’ll work with what we’ve got.” co-owner Bo Tait said after addressing the Oct. 5 virtual council meeting.

“We’ve got another opportunity to plead our case (on) why we need this, and why the community needs this.”

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

But residents of nearby Green Haven Estates retirement community have objected to the loud and late-hour music, and presented a 93-signature petition urging council to reject the noise bylaw exemption.

“Since Valley Axe opened … and started live music, it has disrupted our quality of life,” said spokesperson Hugh Kerr. “Members of council, we were here first.”

In addition to the petition, city staff received letters and verbal objections from 12 people who said the noise is disruptive to the peace.

“The windows rattle and all you hear is boom, boom, boom,” said Green Haven community manager Joyce Howes

Tait said he didn’t know the neighbours were upset until Sarnia Police arrived during a Sept. 12 event and told him it had to end by 9 p.m.

“There’s a general understanding that before 11 p.m. you’re going to be OK,” Tait said.

Though subsequent shows ended promptly at 9 p.m. they sold only about one-third of the available tickets.

“Entertainment takes place in the evening for a reason. That’s when people want to go out.”

Tait said Ontario’s ever-changing pandemic restrictions make it almost impossible to plan. When Sarnia-Lambton moved to Stage 3 earlier this summer, Valley Axe had four days to get the word out about a live event and notify neighbours.

The business he owns with brother Adam Tait suffered a 98% revenue decline when the pandemic arrived, and live shows are now its only source of income.

An already scheduled evening of multiple live band performances on Saturday, Oct. 17 can run until 11 p.m., as can a live pro wrestling demonstration set for Saturday, Oct. 31.

Council also agreed to revisit the blanket exemption request for next year at a later date.

Without the outdoor event space Valley Axe would be in “deep trouble,” Tait said.

“It’s really helped us recover from significant financial loss between March and June.”




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