A group of seniors have had to press pause on their daily workout, after the City of Surrey threatened to levy fines against a South Surrey retirement home unless it stopped hosting musical performances and dance classes in front of its building.
For the last number of weeks, Amica White Rock (15333 16 Ave.) has strictly limited outside visitors and asked residents to stay inside their suites as much as possible to help reduce the risk of COVID-19 being introduced into the building.
To relieve the physical and mental effects that isolation can create, the company began hosting daily 15-30 minute exercise routines in front of the building, allowing residents to participate from their balconies.
After receiving a complaint from a neighbour, the City of Surrey’s bylaw department issued a notice to Amica, citing the noise bylaw that “prohibits noise that disturbs the neighbourhood.”
“Every person who is found in contravention or in violation of the by-law is liable to penalties. Fines can be imposed from $100 to $2,000 for each offence. Each day that a violation exists is considered a separate offence,” the letter stated.
Amica general manager Kelvin Monteiro said the instructional exercise class occurred every day from about 9:30-10 a.m., and another “move and groove” session from 3:30-4 p.m.
While the activities are exercise and dancing related, Steve ‘Elvis’ Elliott hosted a performance in front of the building and Vancouver Canucks singer Mark Donnelly once performed O’Canada for the residents.
Monteiro said Amica wants to be the best neighbour they can be, and have paused all outdoor activities that involve music, moving groups and exercise. He said staff are exploring different ways for residents to stay physically active.
Amica resident David Shargool was disappointed that the music had to be shut off, saying that the exercise classes were only a temporary solution during COVID-19.
“Complaining about two periods of 15 minutes a day of music and exercise instruction is a little bit… not nice,” Shargool said.
Shargool said he’s read the bylaw and “it’s subjective,” as there isn’t a decibel limit.
“Now, admittedly, on one or two occasions, the leaders have been a little bit too enthusiastic and the music company has been too high. But that was all attended to,” he said, adding that one of the complainers parked their vehicle across the road and laid on the horn for “goodness knows how long.”
“She’s not helping the situation by doing that.”
While she wasn’t the one who made an official complaint to the City of Surrey nor did she use her horn to disrupt the class, White Rock resident Jacqueline Lewis, 76, who lives across the street from Amica, says the tunes have been too loud.
“I’m not mean. Everybody has a right, and they don’t have a right to infringe on us,” Lewis said.
Lewis expressed an additional concern about passersby stopping on the sidewalk to listen to the music and not wearing masks or physically distancing.
Asked for her response to the argument that Amica residents have been essentially in lockdown for a number of months and that this is one of the few opportunities they have to exercise, Lewis said she empathizes.
“I’m very sad that they can’t exercise, but are they sad for me and my husband that we can’t go out and walk and exercise?” she said.
“There’s a bunch of us old people that can’t go out. We don’t see our kids, I can’t see my grandchildren,” she said, adding that her 82-year-old husband has a compromised immune system. “So think about other people for a change. I mean, I know they’re rich over there and we rent, so hey, who are we?”
Lewis said Surrey bylaw acted on the complaint after a resident in her building threatened to take the city to court over the matter.
Contacted Monday morning, the City of Surrey had not responded to a request for comment before Peace Arch News’ press deadline.