Residents making a racket about revisions to noise bylaw

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Looking to provide residents with more clarity and provide enforcement officers more tools, Wellesley Township is proposing changes to its noise bylaw. The process has not been without contention, however.

Last revised in 2008, the bylaw would feature clearer, more specific language spelling out what constitutes excessive noise and what could be done to deal with complaints, for instance.

The draft bylaw expands on the current version and provides for clearly defined hours and regulations in which members of the community can perform certain activities that may produce louder amounts of noise, for instance.  An application process is being proposed where organizers/businesses and/or residents may apply for exemptions for specific types of events which could include, but not limited to: construction projects, fundraisers, private weddings and music festivals.

“The current bylaw is very vague and the proposed bylaw is detailed,” said Grace Kosch, municipal clerk for the Township of Wellesley.

That’s apparent just on the surface, as the current bylaw is two pages long while the proposed revised version spans seven pages.

The new bylaw features noticeable changes from the original.

The draft version begins by defining a variety of terms in great detail within the context of the document, including “holiday,” “implements of husbandry” and “motor vehicle racing.” It goes on to list general exemptions from the bylaw, such as noise created by the activity of snow removal and Remembrance Day celebrations.

The document lists general prohibitions. These specific bans include the persistent parking of any domestic pet, tire squealing, the detonation of explosives and the operation of a vehicle radio/stereo.

It compares the set bylaw noise times with Woolwich, the City of Waterloo, Mapleton, Perth East and Wilmot.

Wellesley is currently in the public consultation stage of drafting the new bylaw, with a feedback survey having just wrapped up this week. The township opened up its website to comments on April 20, closing out the commenting period May 9.

“We have received over 100 comments to date,” said Kosch this week.

While the revised version of the noise bylaw spells out requirements and offenses more clearly, not all residents are happy with the restrictions.

“I’m disappointed actually, I didn’t realize there was a noise issue in Wellesley,” said Michelle Burke, a Wellesley resident. “I’ve lived here since 2010 and grew up here as a child. The community has always been tolerant of people having fires and playing music in their backyard. The new bylaw bans that.”

The noise bylaw states that “no person shall within the limits of the municipality cause or permit continuous noise from construction or other controllable causes between the hours of 19:00 (7 p.m.) and 7 a.m. or all day Sunday.” There is the exception against “normal social and economic activities of the inhabitants of the municipality including noises associated with spontaneous events such as celebrations, weddings, church bells, etc.” Those who break this bylaw are subject to a $50 fine.

“Wellesley is not a big city,” said Burke. “We shouldn’t have the same bylaws as a city.”

Many Wellesley residents were not even aware that there was a proposed bylaw in effect, according to  Burke. She ensured other citizens were made aware of this by posting to a Facebook group, where many members were unaware of the changes being considered.

“Certain things should be more visible to the community so that they understand what is happening,” she said.

Asked about that prompted the review of the bylaw, Kosch noted the process was launched at council’s request.

With the township still in the review stage, there’s no timeline for a new bylaw, if it’s ultimately approved. Given that it’s an election year, the timing of council decisions become more of an issue the closer they get to the end of term. The municipal election is set for October 22. Depending on how many of the councillors seek re-election and if they are races in one or more of the wards, council could be in lame-duck mode as term winds down.

“Best case it would be close to the end of the year depending on if our council will be in a lame duck position or not,” said Kosch, when questioned when the potential law would come into effect. “The bylaw needs to have a legal review and council adoption.”

For anyone interested in the specifics, the 2018 document is available on the Wellesley Township website under the “news” section.