Toronto noise bylaw challenges, poor results

The struggles to make a new Noise Bylaw continue to challenge Municipal Licensing and Standards. Businesses, neighbourhood associations, Toronto Board of Health and the music industry have met for over a year with poor results.

This controversial item is first on the agenda at 9:30 am at the MLS Committee meeting on Tuesday, April 10. I think you’ll find a story there.  For instance, take a look at my text in red below.  Many neighbourhood associations and businesses will make deputations, including the Toronto Noise Coalition (I’m adding my own below).

On a noise-related issue, YQNA went through a year of LAT hearings regarding Rebel, the mega nightclub at the Eastern Gap. We are still waiting for the decision on that, but it should be imminent.

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To the Licensing and Standards Committee:

As a member of York Quay Neighbourhood Association as well as the Toronto Noise Coalition and participant in the MLS Working Group to create a new Noise Bylaw, I offer some suggestions about the process and structure of this Bylaw. The actual content, such as decibel levels and permitted hours for noise, will likely be covered by others.

MLS limitations

Lack of staff and limited budget mean that MLS is incapable of responding to legitimate noise complaints in a timely manner. None of that is expected to change with a new Noise Bylaw, according to MLS. But it will allow for more noise for longer hours, and will thereby legitimize some of the enforcement problems.

A new Noise Bylaw must not place the onus on the recipients of noise.

Now, people complain about noise invading their homes from a construction site or an outdoor concert, and MLS may send a noise inspector five days later. Such a visit is useless, but the complainant might be told to keep a noise log for several weeks, describing the source, duration and loudness of the noise. To make this exercise relevant, the complainants can submit the noise logs to a court trial to face the noise makers, and they must agree to be witness – and could even be held liable for legal cost! This has played out on the Waterfront with poor results. Very few people volunteered to be part in this absurd process. Instead they sold their condos and moved. The noise makers went about their business without a fine.

The onus must be placed on the makers of excessive noise, as is the case with other polluters. It can be done with noise mitigation plans, stronger enforcement by MLS with officers able to ticket offenders, and higher fines.

A Noise Bylaw is about noise & health, not a business booster

MLS established a Working Group of around 20 people from various business sectors, Board of Health, and neighbourhood associations around Toronto, in February of 2017. Nine meetings followed. Terms of Reference (ToR) were established with the focus on Noise and Health, and eliminated requests to “balance with business” from the Toronto Music Advisory Committee (TMAC). With the ToR agreed to by all, MLS proceeded to include business concerns in the meetings. That was unacceptable.

Better MLS direction needed

Overall, the professionalism of MLS was shaky during the year of Working Group meetings, with sketchy minutes taken, ever changing chairs of meetings, lack of research and expert advice, and ending with a chaotic meeting, where nobody from the TMAC bothered to show up.

Citizens’ voices must persist

As a citizen, who spent 75 hours on this issue in 2017 and see few results, I feel the Working Group was simply a requirement to be checked off the MLS to-do list. Our input was largely ignored, though many participants had knowledge and experience about noise in an urban environment that surpassed that of MLS’s staff. With the postponement of finalizing a new Noise Bylaw, I ask that YQNA, TNC and others in the Working Group remain engaged in the process, and that our efforts not be ignored or wasted.

Noise control also dropped by Toronto Police and AGCO

It looks like a co-ordinated wave, when the MLS, Toronto Police and the provincial Alcohol and Gaming Commission (AGCO) are simultaneously declaring noise control a low priority. That could leave Toronto in a unique position among major Western cities of having little or NO noise control.

YQNA thanks MLS for the opportunity to participate in creating a new Noise Bylaw. The beauty and recreational facilities on Waterfront draw millions of people from the GTA every year. Outdoor performances take place in around a dozen venues, which gave us the description as “the canary in the mine shaft” concerning noise. We have heard: “What did you expect when you moved to the Waterfront?” We expected a lively environment and an effective Noise Bylaw that applies to the entire city, without exceptions.

— Ulla Colgrass

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