A bylaw to keep noise in Maple Creek to a reasonable level, while allowing snow clearing on commercial property before the start of business has been passed.
The Noise Bylaw is designed to “prohibit certain activities creating noise” and “restrict the hours when certain sounds may be made”.
It prohibits anyone from operating a lawn mower, or an engine-powered snow clearing device, between 11pm and 7am.
It also controls the playing of radios, TVs, CD players and musical instruments.
It also seeks to stop dog owners from letting their pets bark or howl excessively.
Other areas covered by the bylaw include construction noises, large truck motors, and engine brakes. There are, however, several exceptions to the bylaw. They include:
The use of any tractors, trucks or other equipment for snow removal, snow clearing or sanding of streets, the repair of streets or the repair and maintenance of any municipal works or utilities; and
The use of any tractors, trucks or other equipment by contractors for snow removal and snow clearing on commercial property.
Among other exceptions are the ringing of church and school bells, sounds associated with a parade, alarms to warn of disasters, emergency vehicle sirens, and the use of any equipment for the repair or maintenance of public utilities.
Contraventions of the bylaw could result in fines: $100 (1st offence); $200 (2nd offence); and $300 (3rd offence).
The bylaw passed three readings and was adopted at the Maple Creek Town Council meeting on Tuesday, January 24. A lot of the discussion centred on what constitutes noise under the bylaw. Mayor and Council were told that such a determination had an element of subjectivity.
Barry Elliott, chief administrative officer, explained the rationale behind the bylaw exceptions related to snow clearing.
It was important to ensure that snow clearing is unimpeded and permitted as it needs to be at businesses and certain institutions.
“We have to make sure institutions like the hospital are open and ready for business almost at a moment’s notice,” he said.
Councillor Betty Abbott questioned why snow removal in residential areas was not exempted from the bylaw provisions. She said some areas were snowed in during a recent snowstorm.
Elliott appreciated what Councillor Abbott was saying. However, experience taught him the importance of controlling residential snow clearing.
“Unless you have some control, you will have people running snow blowers at 3am or 4am.”
Councillor Tina Cresswell said a balance had to be struck between the needs of an institution like the healthcare facility being accessible 24 hours a day and preserving the peace of nearby residents.
Since the Southwest Integrated Healthcare Facility was first opened, she said, there had been complaints by people in Myers Crescent about snow removal in the early hours, which included scraping light snow off pavements.
While it was important for the facility to always be accessible, operators had to ensure a decision to remove snow was not taken whimsically.
Councillor Len Barkman sought clarification on what the bylaw meant when it stated: “The interpretation of what constitutes a loud noise, or a noise which annoys, disturbs, injures or endangers the comfort, repose, health, peace or safety of other persons is a question of fact for a court which hears a prosecution of an offence against this bylaw.”
Elliott said such language was used in many noise bylaws in other jurisdictions.
“It has been proven in common law that is appropriate. It is a court that will determine whether the threshold has been met.”
Councillor Barkman wondered who determines what constitutes noise under the bylaw. One person might consider something loud, while another will disagree, he said.
“Who determines whether something is a violation of the bylaw?”
Elliott replied: “Most bylaws don’t have the luxury of having absolute black and white elements to them. There is an element of subjectivity.”
He added a bylaw officer would have to determine what is reasonable, and what is not.
Councillor Barkman asked whether the public could be involved in enforcement.
“Is there an avenue for the public to use this bylaw?” he asked, adding: “I’m still cloudy on the aspect of enforcement.”
Elliott said the bylaw officer would be tasked with doing his or her level best in following the intent of the bylaw.
The factor of what is “reasonable” was an essential consideration.
“If a dog is barking at 3am, I don’t care if it’s 15 minutes or 30 minutes, that’s not reasonable in a residential area,” Elliott said.
He added that enforcement did not necessarily mean a fine. It did mean contact with an offender.
“There is an element of education that accompanies that,” he said.
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