New county-wide noise bylaw gives Erin teeth to enforce complaints

New noise bylaw increases fines to between $400 and $800

ERIN – The Town of Erin has adopted a new county-wide noise bylaw, bringing consistency to enforcement across the county’s municipalities, along with increased fines.

With Erin now on board, all of the county’s seven municipalities have a uniform bylaw – requested by Wellington OPP, and drafted by SV Law.

Erin bylaw officer Martyna Sliwiak told council in April the bylaw “allows for effective enforcement with provisions for addressing the needs of a growing community.”

The town’s previous iteration of a noise bylaw, which expired at the beginning of May, wasn’t sufficient, Sliwiak said.

The town was without teeth to enforce noise issues anywhere outside of residential-zoned areas.

Now, there’s an around-the-clock blanket prohibition on any noise Sliwiak or the OPP deem unreasonable.

The new bylaw has also introduced construction-specific noise prohibitions – a particular interest of councillors Bridget Ryan and Cathy Aylard, considering the town’s growth.

During last year’s county-wide consultations to draft the bylaw, Sliwiak suggested a clause to prohibit construction on Sundays.

But that would affect each municipality adopting the bylaw, and keep residents from building on their properties as well.

“And there’s no way of dividing the two, between mass development and someone putting up a deck?” Aylard asked last month.

“I did bring this forward, they (surrounding municipalities) don’t have the same issues as we do here currently,” Sliwiak said.

“We couldn’t put specific-to-the-town prohibitions because no other municipality was having these issues,” she explained.

What about changing the bylaw to suit the town’s needs, Ryan asked, but Sliwiak quashed the idea.

The OPP, as the primary response to noise violations in town, would refuse to enforce a town-specific bylaw, according to Sliwiak.

“As a consensus, and through SV Law consultation, this is what [SV Law] came up with as the best uniform bylaw for all municipalities,” Sliwiak said.

Trying to ease councillors’ concerns, she reiterated the new bylaw’s wide-reach – prohibiting any kind of disturbing noise anytime, anywhere.

If someone calls in a complaint, either she or an OPP officer, using personal judgment, can require whatever is causing the noise to be stopped.

According to Sliwiak, the bylaw provides “appropriate and reasonable expectations of all residents and businesses to ensure noise-related activities do not extend into unreasonable hours, affecting the right to peace and enjoyment.”

Though voluntary compliance is the goal, fines can be levied when people choose not to comply.

Fines increased from $125 across the board to between $400 and $800.

Noise offences now attract a fine of $400, not complying with a permit will cost $750, and obstructing an investigation rings in at $800.

Payments will typically go to the municipality, with the exception of “victim fine surcharges” and court fees, according to Sliwiak.

Mayor Michael Dehn asked about the feasibility of getting an administrative monetary penalty system to handle municipal ticket processing and disputes in Erin, rather than the judicial system.

Council heard it can take years to get such a system implemented.

“I think we should revisit that sooner than later,” the mayor said.

Local exemptions to the new noise bylaw can still be obtained through the town, however council is now bypassed in the process, with town clerk Nina Lecic reviewing and making the call on applications.

Bypassing council is expected to streamline and expedite the permitting process, states a staff report.

According to the town, there have been 14 noise complaints between Jan. 1 and April 25.

Sliwiak did not answer questions from the Advertiser about whether those complaints were investigated by the town or police, or what the outcomes of the complaints were.

“All town complaints were investigated and/or followed up on,” she wrote in an email, providing the same response when asked the similar questions about 2023 complaints.

Other changes introduced in the new bylaw include:

  • a specific list of exemptions;
  • exemption application requirements;
  • conditions to resolve permit non-compliance;
  • administration, inspection and enforcement regulations;
  • new provisions allowing for the expansion of noise sources with potential to
    adversely affect residents; and
  • reasonable times for noise while allowing for enforcement and restrictions on
    unreasonable or excessive noise during permitted times.

Council unanimously voted to adopt the new bylaw, which took effect May 1.