Billed as something that would “destroy the essence of our incredible town,” Niagara-on-the-Lake (NOTL) community members are calling on municipal officials to reject draft noise bylaw revisions that could dampen noise throughout the day and restrict activities like singing in the evenings.
A petition on change.org was started on Tuesday by local entertainer and entrepreneur Joe Pillitteri, calling for “stricter reinforcements of the current noise by-law.”
“By supporting this petition, you’re demonstrating your support for stopping this detrimental change and calling for the rejection of revisions to by-law XXXX-20,” the petition said.
Pillitteri said he started the petition after hearing about the proposed changes, noting the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has made it difficult for many in the Niagara Region. He said proposed restrictions would eliminate or greatly restrict outdoor music and outdoor performances.
“If I said to you, ‘Stop yelling,’ I’ve just made 65 decibels,” he said in a slightly raised voice.
“The legs of this bylaw were drafted, I think, pre-COVID. If it was a bad idea then, I don’t think it could be any worse now.
“Being a destination town, you would have instances where noise becomes an issue past 11 o’clock at night and existing bylaws are designed to stop that from happening.”
A draft noise bylaw was posted on the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake website and contained in the document are a number of proposed revisions as well as time frames for permitted activities.
One of the contentious revisions revolves around a restriction that “no person shall emit or cause or permit the emission of continuous electronically amplified sound or live music when measured with a sound level meter (with an ‘A-weighting’) at a point of reception on an abutting property.”
The revision proposed capping the noise level at 50 decibels between 11 p.m. and 7 p.m. and 55 decibels between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m.
According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, a quiet room can be around 40 decibels and a typical conversation from a metre away can be around 55 decibels — the proposed cap during the day.
For comparison, a diesel truck travelling 50 km/h 20 metres away emits a sound level of 85 decibels and a power lawnmower a metre away has a level of 92 decibels.
In a section of the bylaw outlining prohibitions, it was proposed that “yelling, shouting, hooting, whistling or singing” be banned between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. on the next day, and between 9 p.m. and 9 a.m. on Sundays and statutory holidays. The proposed fine if someone is inevitably convicted should the bylaw revisions pass would be $350.
Despite the proposed revisions, exemptions under the draft bylaw would be granted if special event permits were issued for certain events by the Town. It also said exemptions of up to six months could be granted to people who apply in writing to the Town.
As of Thursday afternoon, Pillitteri’s petition was gaining traction and more than 4,200 people signed the petition. Among the signatories was Canadian musician and a founding member of Barenaked Ladies, Steven Page.
“As a musician, audience member and wine lover, outdoor concerts in NOTL, specifically at Jackson-Triggs, have been an important part of my life,” he wrote.
“Killing performances like these would be a huge and destructive blow to both the arts and wine communities in Canada.”
Betty Disero, Lord Mayor of Niagara-on-the-Lake, told Global News she doesn’t support the proposed noise bylaw revisions. She said the noise bylaw review was launched in an effort to address shortcomings in enforcement, especially relating to short-term rentals.
A notice on the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake website, an electronic open house was held on July 9 to discuss a “comprehensive review” of the municipality’s noise bylaw. However, Disero said it’s unclear how the specific limits and proposed revisions to the bylaw were made.
“Somehow they took all the information out of this report that came back from whoever wrote it and have used that to draft the bylaw,” she said, adding the document wasn’t signed.
“People are not happy to say the least.”
The matter still needs to be reviewed by Town council. Disero said she will be raising the issue at a meeting later in August.
“Niagara-on-the-Lake is a place to celebrate, it’s a place just to have a good experience, and part of that is having festivals, fundraisers, music and concerts — all the things people enjoy,” she said.
“We need to strike a balance. To say to people, ‘Yeah, you can have a special event but you cannot make any noise’ is not a balanced approached.”
— With files from Matthew Bingley