As part of its bylaw review process, the Town of Huntsville will be seeking input from local businesses and residents on proposed changes to its noise bylaw.
The changes are designed to make it clearer what constitutes a violation of the bylaw.
One section in particular, which currently reads “…excessive noise, which disrupts the normal living or working environment of a person at a point of reception…” was deemed to be too subjective and could allow “an unreasonable complainant to potentially argue that any noise that is being heard at any time of the day is bothersome,” noted a staff report presented to General Committee on May 30.
In the updated bylaw, that section would be removed, and others would be revised to remove conflicting or confusing provisions.
Other proposed changes include:
- an updated pet noise provision that would count “continuous barking” as an offence, defined as “persistent sound made by any dog that occurs for an uninterrupted period of ten minutes or more, or on a sporadic basis of fifteen minutes or more in any thirty minute time period.”
- an exemption for special events if a valid permit has been issued, which would allow for noise during specified and approved times provided notice is given. (All of the existing exemptions have been carried over from the current bylaw for construction, demolition, sirens associated with emergency services, emergency measures, audible pedestrian signals, and uses with site plan approval.)
- allowing yelling, shouting, hooting or hollering at sanctioned sporting events, which was not previously permitted.
- an increase in fines to $175 or $250, depending on the offence.
The Town’s Chief Bylaw Enforcement Officer, Andrew Stillar, said that his department plans to hold one-on-one meetings with representative commercial and industrial businesses, as well as two public meetings to gather comments from residents.
“We want to make sure that any changes reflect the values of the citizens in relation to their tolerance of noise,” he said.
Councillor Nancy Alcock said that she’d like to see some flexibility in the process to allow for changes based on public input, and both she and Councillor Jonathan Wiebe suggested engaging with business owners on how to mitigate noise.
Deputy Mayor Karin Terziano asked that parameters for the updates be clearly communicated, and Councillor Jason FitzGerald wanted to see the wording of the final changes “very straight-forward and I’d like to see them on the Town’s website for everyone to see so there’s no confusion. I think that would be advantageous for bylaw, council, and all constituents.”
Committee Chair, Councillor Brian Thompson, asked what would happen if a site plan differed from the noise bylaw. The Town’s Executive Director of Development Services, Derrick Hammond replied, “Presumably the site plan permits the use and the noise bylaw is regulating levels of noise, I would have to talk to our solicitor about our ability to go back and alter site plans. You raise a really good point.”
The noise bylaw will be the first to undergo public consultation, with others like the clean yards bylaw to follow at a later date.
None of the changes will be completely set in stone. “We are going to be going out hopefully on a continual basis to educate with respect to our bylaws,” said Hammond, adding that issues that arise through that process may result in further discussion and review.
At the meeting, Town staff also shared plans for an annual public awareness campaign on bylaws and their enforcement.
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