Noise bylaw flexibility
London Community News
By Sean Meyer/London Community News/Twitter: Newswriter22
London’s summer festivals could soon run slightly longer and just a bit louder, but only for a maximum of 10 seconds, should council support a Community Services Committee recommendation.
During their meeting on Tuesday (June 19), councillors voted in support of flexibility around the rules for amplified sounds and hours of operation for special events.
Under the committee’s proposal, special events would continue to run until 11 p.m., but would have a 15-minute grace period before the bylaw would be enforced. In addition, the decibel level of outdoor concerts would stay at the current 90 decibels, but with a three-decibel grace period for a maximum of 10 seconds.
The recommendation still needs council approval.
Ward 12 Councillor Harold Usher, in calling the summer festivals “jewels” of the city, said he recognized the guidelines around sound levels and hours of operation need to be changed. However, he wasn’t prepared to have the limits around either issue raised too high.
“I am a little confused about the 85 to 100 because it seems to me that 85 to 100 is 100. I just want to be sure we understand that,” Usher said. “I am not sure the 85 means anything. I think the up to 100 would be more understandable. But I just want us to think about it.”
That proposal Usher brought forward wasn’t on the committee’s agenda for its public participation meeting, which was suggesting a trio of options around sound levels and hours of operation respectively. Those options included no chance for decibels, a move to not exceeding 100 decibels and a range between 85 and 100 decibels. The hours of operation option would see no change to the 11 p.m. deadline, a boost to midnight and another to 1 a.m.
However, one issue that came up on several occasions during the public meeting suggested there was a desire in the community to see greater flexibility around enforcement of the bylaw. And that is where Usher moved to offer up a motion that focused on the use of grace periods.
“We are faced with a challenge of respecting what the people in the neighbourhood would like and what the people who visit the festivals enjoy,” Usher said. “I wonder if we can’t be a little more flexible, stick with what we have now, but with a 15 minute grace and a three decibel grace. That is what I want to put on the floor.”
Ward 9 Councillor Dale Henderson supported Usher’s motion by suggesting the committee’s “two engineers are thinking alike.” Henderson said he also didn’t like the options that were presented on the agenda, but was comfortable with Usher’s compromise.
“I think we need some change here. What I am hearing is that we need some flexibility in this town. I think we are looking at the kinder and gentler way of doing things,” Henderson said. “If they go above 93 db, they get their fine. Gives them a little room to play. And if they go 15 minutes past, that’s fine as well. That’s what I am hearing.”
Committee chair and Ward 7 Councillor Matt Brown asked staff for clarification around which events would be affected by the recommendation, particularly the city’s New Year’s Eve festivities. Staff reassured the committee the New Year’s Eve event already has an exception from these bylaws, in particular, having a time of operation of 12:01 a.m. as opposed to 11 p.m.
Mayor Joe Fontana, in suggesting the city needed higher levels around these issues suggested a move to 12 a.m. and a range between 85 and 100 decibels as a limit.
Although Fontana found no support for his motion, he reiterated the need to show London is a “welcoming city” because of the vital importance of all the city’s festival events.
The mayor also said people have to understand that making the rules so restrictive could actually jeopardize the future of all festivals and could potentially mean less revenue for the charities many of these events support.
“I am not suggesting 1 a.m., but let’s be a little more realistic that things have changed. I think 11 p.m. causes issues,” Fontana said. “That is the new reality, the city doesn’t stop. Our downtown bars are open until 2 a.m. I am talking about balance. Sometimes you can regulate these good things to the point they don’t want to go through the hassle anymore.”
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