Public to have its say on idea of louder, later special events
London Community News
By Sean Meyer/London Community News/Twitter: Newswriter22
There seems to be interest by councillors in allowing special events to play louder music for a more hours. However, those same councillors want London residents to have their say before making a decision.
During the Community Services Committee meeting on Tuesday (May 29), the members were presented with a staff report that laid out three recommendations around allowable decibel levels at special events and three others for hours of operation during those same events.
Around the noise level at special events, the staff report recommended no change, increase up to 100 decibels or setting a level between 80 and 100 decibels. In terms of hours of operation, staff suggested no change, allow for amplified sounds between 9 p.m. and midnight or 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Ward 12 Councillor Harold Usher was the first to suggest the recommendations be presented at a public participation meeting to be held on June 19. All committee members, except Ward 9 Councillor Dale Henderson, supported the motion.
“I believe these are good options . . . but I would like to hear what the public is thinking at this stage,” Usher said. “When we first came up with the 90 decibels, it was the thing, it was the best option at the time. It probably still is. But what I am hearing now is people are looking at this in different ways.”
Usher said he has heard from residents who moved specifically to the downtown to hear the music of the festivals. He also heard the time should be left at 11 p.m. so people would then head out to the bars.
“All I am saying, maybe, just maybe, people’s attitudes on this have changed,” Usher said. “I really do think that rather than us spending a whole lot of time trying to figure out which one of these ones are better, let’s the public talk about it, then we can come up with a decision after that.”
Henderson said he disagreed with the public meeting idea, suggesting the committee, and later the council, should be decisive around this issue. Henderson suggested raising the decibel level to 95 from the current 90 and boosting the hours of operation from 11 p.m. to midnight.
“If we have a public participation meeting we will talk about whether it is 98 or 97 or 102. We can make the decision to up it to something reasonable that won’t blow our ears,” Henderson said. “The results will come back to us real quick if we are too loud or too long.”
Mayor Joe Fontana said he supported the public participation meeting, but added the bylaw would affect relatively few nights over the course of the year. Fontana went on to say 12 days per year “wasn’t a big sacrifice to ask of people.”
The mayor also said the issue needs to be put into balance, adding the wrong bylaw could affect the city’s perception by entertainers and business people alike.
“What we want is a little bit of balance. We can price ourselves completely out of the market if it is perceived this is a difficult place for people come and enjoy themselves,” Fontana said. “It isn’t like it is every night, every weekend, that people have to put up with so-called noise. And it isn’t noise . . . there is a difference between noise and music.”
Ward 13 Councillor Judy Bryant said the issue is more than just one or two nights during the summer, adding that there are a lot of people attending festivals at different points throughout the year.
For Bryant, the bigger issue is the growth of the city’s festival culture, adding it might be time to consider holding events in a wider variety of locations.
“I would actually think it would be great if we looked at putting something in Springbank Gardens, Old East Village, Western Fair, to spread the load,” Bryant said. “Honestly, poor old Victoria Park is getting beat up. It really does look quite bad if you get three in a row. I am hoping we end up with a nice balanced approach.”
When it came to the public meeting, Bryant asked — and the committee supported — that not only the London Police Service, but also the Middlesex London Health Unit be invited to the public participation meeting.
Ward 4 Councillor Stephen Orser said he had a totally different point of view on the debate. In his mind, Orser said, the downtown core is “actually the nucleolus of London,” which the special events being a way to attract visitors from across the area.
“My personal opinion, my personal like, is loud and late. I looked at buying a small property downtown at one time; I knew full well there would be noisy special events. That comes with it,” Orser said. “When you look at the attraction factor, I think we should, at a minimum, go late. Let’s make these special times have special rules.”
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