Curtis Munson of Valhalla Strength and Conditioning is close to crying uncle after nearly a year of trying to appease District of Sechelt zoning bylaws.
As Coast Reporter went to press Thursday, Munson had until the end of the day to remove a gravel parking area or risk losing his business licence.
“This is just starting to get silly,” he said in response to the demand.
Munson started an athletic gym in his brother’s garage about a year and a half ago at 5628 Wakefield Rd.
Around six months after starting up, he said he began to receive complaints from a nearby neighbour.
The complaints, which centred on noise coming from the establishment, also went to the District of Sechelt. The District responded, outlining the rules in the zoning bylaw and telling Munson to cut the noise or face consequences.
In the months that followed Munson said he did everything he could to make the impacts of his business minimal on the neighbourhood.
Where he used to have patrons pull sleds with weights down the road, he restricted them to his driveway. When that wasn’t enough, he put material on the bottoms of the sleds to further muffle their sound and then ultimately changed programming to limit workouts to inside the gym only.
He said complaints about noise from people jumping on the floor prompted a $2,800 floor retrofit that he was sure would solve the problem, but it didn’t. He said the sound of music became an issue.
“So we agreed to keep the doors closed to the garage, but then I had to put in an air conditioner,” Munson said. “There were complaints about the noise from the air conditioner.”
Currently he says his patrons are working out in a closed garage without an air conditioner, but they are making do.
“Now there’s a problem with the parking? I just want to run my business, already,” Munson said.
After concerns about his patrons parking on the roadway were brought up, Munson said he poured gravel to create a few parking spaces on his brother’s property just off Wakefield Road. It turns out that parking is an issue under the zoning bylaw and must be removed.
Sechelt Mayor John Henderson said the District is just trying to enforce its bylaws and “keep harmony in the village.
“It is a complaint-driven process, and yes, we’ve had ongoing complaints,” Henderson said, noting Munson has been given previous warnings.
Although he considers his council pro-business, Henderson said Valhalla’s current location might not be a good fit for the gym.
“I think we want to see business work in places where business is permitted, and so you know we have bylaws in place for the community. If somebody’s not complying with the bylaws and it’s impacting another citizen, we’ll investigate, we’ll see what we can do. And that’s what we’re trying to do here,” Henderson said, noting the District is willing to offer access to some of its parks to accommodate the outside programming Munson wants to offer. “It’s a balancing act. As always we need to balance the needs and requirements of the entire community.”
Munson said he plans to move his gym to a larger location outside a residential area in the future, but the cost right now is too great.
“I need to be here for a little while longer to build up my clientele base before I can afford to move,” he said, noting the business is the only source of income for his family. “We’re pretty much stuck.”