Rock bands that use chainsaws for instruments might want to steer clear of Tiny Township in the next while.

A notice of motion from Deputy Mayor Sean Miskimins brought the issue of ‘reasonable noise’ to council’s attention at a recent committee of the whole meeting.

“Just to be clear,” Miskimins stated, “I do not support having massive parties or ‘ragers’ going all night. I think there are limitations and I know other municipalities absolutely have limits and allow for quiet time.”

The noise bylaw in Tiny, revised in 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic, was intended to address concerns about domestic tools and lawn maintenance equipment, while also handling frequent complaints on electronic amplification of loudspeakers and persistent pet noises.

“Within the existing bylaw, it states that any amplified noise is not allowed,” Miskimins noted. “However, there are exceptions: leaf blowers; chainsaws; wood chippers – all can be used during the majority of what is considered regular waking hours all throughout the week and including weekends.

“Personally, I find these machines a lot louder than music being played through an amplified stereo, within reason of course,” he added.

Miskimins proposed having staff explore two avenues: to “look at what decibel level constitutes noise that is unreasonable”; and to “understand what other municipalities have done to combat nuisance calls.” He stressed that it wasn’t an attempt to change the bylaw, but rather to have staff look into options.

Mayor Dave Evans suggested that the first suggestion could be addressed by looking into the exemptions section of the noise bylaw for ‘parades, activities or special events permitted by council.’

“I would suggest that we get direction to provide special event permits for these type of events to be administered by bylaw, to be approved by bylaw in advance with a stipend, to cover any possible need for that,” said Evans.

The implementation of a decibel meter by bylaw officers was another suggestion by Evans.

“I think that it is something we should investigate because it’s a definitive measure and parameter that we can use for a yes or no, so our bylaw staff are not interpreting,” Evans pointed out.

Evans also agreed that nuisance calls were a concern and that the second of Miskimins’ suggestions would benefit from having the township’s police services board, of which he and Coun. Kelly Helowka are members, look at it at an upcoming meeting.

Said Helowka: “In my past life, there were municipalities out west that had adopted what they call ‘cry wolf’ bylaws where there was some form of punishment that could be levied for people who made continuous calls to people they just didn’t like, or they weren’t invited.”

Miskimins also pointed out the costly nature of nuisance calls.

“Our service call for policing is expensive,” said Miskimins. “It’s one of our biggest expenses in the township, and we get charged basically for every single call. And if we go over budget, then that comes out of reserves. It’s costing taxpayers money.”

Coun. Dave Brunelle suggested that notification could be provided by those louder parties to their neighbourhoods so that measures could be taken to disengage from the community, by taking trips and bringing noise-sensitive pets if needed. He was informed by CAO Robert Lamb, however, to the difficulty on a staffing level to send out such notifications.

Coun. Steffen Walma offered a suggestion. “It might be as simple as: if you have a special occasion permit, you should post it on wherever you’re having the event.”

The discussion wrapped up with Miskimins circling back to tie it all together. 

“I appreciate that you want to let residents know,” Miskimins said, “but for all other machinery like chainsaws, wood chippers and leaf blowers, you don’t need to provide notice to your neighbours. I think we’re kind of contradicting: we’re saying if it’s a party you have to, but if you’re using a chainsaw all day then you don’t.

“Personally, I think that chainsaws are a lot more noisy and a lot more disturbing to my peaceful enjoyment of property than laughter, and knowing people are having a good time.”

The committee of the whole carried the motion for staff to determine options for resident variances of noise levels, such as the hiring of an afternoon party for a wedding as an example; to look at how other municipalities are implementing control measures like through decibel meters; and to have the police services board look into how to deal with nuisance calls.

Information regarding current noise bylaw matters, including what is permitted and restricted, can be found on the law enforcement page for noise located on the Tiny Township website.

Archives of council meetings are available to view on Tiny Township’s YouTube channel.

By Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jul 26, 2023 at 11:44

This item reprinted with permission from   Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario
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