Noise bylaw aims to remedy persistent problems

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Following an increase in complaints from residents, London is revising its noise bylaw.

The current bylaw proposal from London City Council would, among other amendments, change times which loud noises are allowed in residential neighbourhoods from 11 p.m. to 9 p.m.

These noises include yelling and music that can be heard clearly from beyond a home or car at a “point of reception” " defined as any point beyond property where noise originates.

“We’ve had continuous issues, not just student-related,” Paul Hubert, ward eight councillor and chair of London’s environment and transportation committee, said. He cited bars and neighbourhood parties as frequent sources of complaints from residents.

The original bylaws relating to noise were very general, according to Hubert.

“It dealt with what was reasonable,” he said, adding with the old bylaw what was reasonable to one person was not always reasonable to another, especially within the 24-hour restrictions of the previous bylaw.

To make the regulation process less arbitrary, the new bylaw proposes purchasing decibel metres.

Hubert said the metres will eventually allow for a certain amount of noise being equal to a certain fine. He added, however, this would not come into effect immediately.

“I think the noise level [reduction] at 11 p.m. could stand to be changed,” Andrew Francis, director of the London Ontario Live Arts festival, said. If the noise reduction was moved to 9 p.m. LOLA organizers would shut down the festival earlier, Francis added.

The LOLA festival currently gets permission to use space from the city and makes London officials aware they will be making fewer than 90 decibels of noise.

Francis said the city could look at other solutions for regulating noise such as amending regulations around certain areas to accommodate festivals, even temporarily, rather than simply stopping the noise at 9 p.m.

Community events can get permits from London to make up to 90 decibels of noise. The process is not expected to change much under the new bylaw.

“[There is] already an extensive policy surrounding community events,” Hubert said.

The current draft of the bylaw states “Council may grant the temporary noise permit ... or include any terms or conditions Council sees fit.”

When councillors decided this they considered any previous violations of this bylaw or temporary noise permit conditions by the applicant, according to Hubert.

Western has generated its own share of complaints with this year’s Orientation Week, causing two noise bylaw violation complaints. Like LOLA, O-Week is enabled to generate up to 90 decibels of noise for its events.

“Students, like other citizens, are doing activities which may violate the noise bylaw,” Jacqueline Cole, University Students’ Council VP-university affairs, said.

“A noise bylaw that supports diverse lifestyles would benefit students.”

Earlier drafts of the bylaw required Western’s O-Week to go under a specific hearing process to get a permit, rather than an application like other community events.

“[A hearing process] would definitely have a negative effect on Orientation Week,” Cole said.

To enforce the new provisions of the bylaw, bylaw officers will be hired rather than using traditional police officers.

“They will deal with nuisance noise, where there is very little [personal] risk,” Hubert said.

The proposed fine scale currently has first time offenders charged anywhere from $175 to $5,000. Repeat offenders could be charged up to $10,000.

With fines so high, some students believe the city should make a greater effort to warn individuals before distributing punishments.

“I think that the fines are ridiculously high,” Shane Ely, a first-year English student who was given a $250 fine without warning at a party, said.

“I realized we were being pretty loud but I didn’t realize we were disturbing anyone.”

London City Council held a meeting to hear public opinion on the new noise bylaw yesterday night and will be gathering feedback from community groups.

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