Prior to the silencing of an accordion player earlier this spring, the Town of Comox received multiple complaints regarding accordion music in public spaces.
That’s according to a freedom of information request by The Record which documents complaints on file. The inquiry asked for documented complaints from residents between Jan. 1, 2010 and June 1, 2019, under Bylaw No. 1652 (Comox Public Nuisance and Property Maintenance Bylaw, 2010).
In May, local accordion player Jon Cunningham said he was silenced by the Town after being turned down for a busking permit.
At that time, the Town’s deputy corporate administer Shelly Russworm said the busking bylaw is enforced based on the number of noise complaints a musician receives.
According to the files, the Town received an emailed complaint on June 25, 2018 about the accordion music at Marina Park.
“(The music) is destroying your peaceful wonderful marina! Nothing sounds better than children playing and dreaming of boating adventures. Please make it stop!” wrote a complainant whose name was redacted to protect their privacy.
“I enjoy all the events over the summer. Bands playing and the like, and I would suggest he can play then, or in his own backyard for his neighbours to enjoy.”
On April 26, 2019 the Town received another written complaint questioning if they’ve authorized an accordion player at the Comox Marina.
“It’s a place (for) peace, to hear children play in the water park. Enjoy the sounds of the sea lions and nature and dream of boating,” wrote the complainant.
“I don’t believe it is fair to anyone to have a questionable artist begging in a public area.”
On April 30, the Town’s bylaw officer Bill Smith wrote in an email to Russworm he has “received a number of complaints about (an accordion player) … if he wants to play the guitar that should be okay, but an accordion is unreasonable at any location.”
About a month later on May 27, Smith said he called the musician and asked him if he also plays the guitar as that would be less noisy at the marina.
“(He) states he only plays the accordion, (and I) told him we can’t issue a licence for the marina for accordion playing as we have received calls about it. He said that was discrimination against accordion players. I tried to explain in the nuisance bylaw to him and he wouldn’t allow me to talk, and told me he was going to the press and a lawyer,” wrote Smith.
According to the documentation, Cunningham has not possessed a busker’s licence since 2017. Smith wrote in an email to Russworm when he did receive a number of complaints, they were not entered into the system because Cunningham was licenced.
Comox Mayor Russ Arnott said bylaw enforcement within the Town is complaint-driven for the most part. He explained within the last few years, Cunningham had been playing without a licence.
“We did receive a fair amount of complaints. We were doing our due diligence and want to ensure the community can enjoy the park just like his followers.”