Centre Wellington council approves county-wide noise bylaw

CENTRE WELLINGTON – Wellington County and the Wellington OPP want all the municipalities in the county to have the same noise bylaw to make for easier enforcement with consistent rules.

But at least one resident doesn’t think the draft bylaw presented to Centre Wellington council on March 25 goes far enough.

“Minto and Puslinch have adopted it, but it’s not for our town,’ said Staci Barron, who operates Elora Pottery and lives over the shop in downtown Elora. 

Barron said a noise bylaw is badly needed but this one is too ambiguous and leaves too much to the discretion of bylaw or OPP officers dealing with complaints.

She described what she called a “gong show” last summer on the streets of Elora, with restaurants blasting music from their patios, trying to drown each other out.

Buskers can set up anywhere they want in the village – even across the street from each other, and then the “band wars” begin again, Barron said.

She noted many noises – like persistent shouting, dogs barking, lawn mowers blaring and idling vehicles – are not included in the bylaw.

And yet those noises make working and living downtown impossible, she said.

“We do need to sleep,” she said. “And noise should not disturb religious services.”

Barron thought decibel levels should be included in the bylaw – then it’s easy for an enforcement officer to measure and determine if they are too high.

“It’s a good start,” she said of the draft bylaw. “It just needs some tweaking to tighten it up.”

 Bylaw enforcement officer Satnam Chauhan said the bylaw has enforcement tools for officers and broad definitions help them deal with complaints.

 Township clerk Kerri O’Kane added the so-called ambiguity in the wording actually gives the bylaw some teeth.

 “It’s been vetted by S.V. Law,” she said. “It’s important to trust the work and the legal opinion.”

 O’Kane said officials purposely steered away from including decibel levels in the bylaw, “because we don’t have the equipment, the training or the resources.”

 The new bylaw contains:

  • a comprehensive set of definitions and provisions;
  • list of exemptions;
  • process for noise exemptions, including permit applications and submission requirements;
  • delegation of authority to the municipal clerk to approve noise exemptions;
  • terms and conditions for resolution of non-compliance of permits;
  • regulations pertaining to administration and inspection/enforcement;
  • new provisions allowing for expansion of noise sources with potential to adversely affect inhabitants of Centre Wellington;
  • reasonable times for noise while also allowing for enforcement/restrictions on unreasonable/excessive noise during permitted times;
  • exemptions for snow removal on private and public property;
  • provisions applicable township-wide, not just in residential areas; and
  • updated short-form wording and set fines (pre-approved by the Ministry of the Attorney General) that align with standard rates throughout the province.

 “It’s long overdue,” O’Kane said, noting the bylaw can be revised if it is determined to be lacking in some way.

 With summer tourism season just around the corner, O’Kane said it’s important to have this in place sooner rather than later.

 “I think it’s important we move this along,” Mayor Shawn Watters agreed.

 Council approved the noise bylaw.