North Grenville addresses noise in the community

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North Grenville council and staff have been grappling with the issue of regulating noise in the municipality for the past few months.

Although this issue is not new in the municipality, it was first brought to this council by Sarah Bowie, a concerned resident of Law Road who says her family’s life has been disrupted because of the use of motocross bikes on the property next door. “If I’m out on my patio, it is decimal-wise louder than having a vacuum cleaner running next to my head,” she says. “That’s how insane this noise is.”

This prompted the municipality to examine the current noise by-law which was enacted in 2014 in response to a group of citizens who were concerned about excessive noise in residential areas. In a report provided to council at the time, Dr. Paula Stewart of the Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit stated that according to the World Health Organization, there are large-scale epidemiological studies linking exposure to environmental noise to adverse health affects.

The current bylaw states that noise that has the potential to affect surrounding residents should not persist for more the 20 minutes per hour. The revised bylaw put together by staff reduced the time allowed for persistent noise to 10 minutes per hour. It also suggested stronger provisions with respect to reducing incidents of noise created by modified mufflers, limiting the idling of vehicles in residential areas, and streamlining the process to apply for an exemption for special events.

The draft bylaw was released for community input on April 7 and by the council meeting on May 18, staff had received 46 comments from residents who were both for and against the revised bylaw. Many residents felt that the bylaw would limit their ability to use their property for recreational activities that involve motor vehicles, which is something that is quite common in the rural area. Others were in favour of the revised bylaw and suggested changes to make it even more stringent.

Mayor Nancy Peckford says council and staff recognize that this is a complex issue as it relates to the freedom of rural residents being able to enjoy their land. “A lot of people in North Grenville obviously cherish living in more rural parts of our community, and we don’t want to compromise their ability to enjoy their rural properties,” she said.

Because of this, council agreed not to pass the bylaw with the revisions and wait until the municipality has gone through their strategic planning process to address the issue which will allow them to promote further community input and discussion. The strategic plan is scheduled to be complete by January 2022.

When it comes to motocross specifically, Mayor Peckford says they are looking into establishing an ad hoc committee which will be comprised of those within the motocross community and those who feel impacted by their activities. “We want to be confident that it will be a productive and constructive forum, so we’re exploring that opportunity now with staff to see if we can potentially use that as a mechanism to address these concerns.”

Staff also recommended in their report that the mediation process that is in the current bylaw be utilized to help rectify neighbour disputes when it comes to noise or other complaints. “Community mediation is the way to go rather than arbitration or someone enforcing a bylaw,” Councillor John Barclay said at the May 18 meeting. “I think in the spirit of the kind of community we want, we would like to believe that there is a process that we can use to resolve conflicts.”

Sarah is concerned that even a noise bylaw won’t be enough to stop people from using motocross bikes near people’s homes. She believes that there should also be some regulations surrounding the proximity of these tracks to a residence. While she admits that it hasn’t been an issue since the fall, she is concerned that once the land dries up after the spring melt, the motocross bikes will be back. “I’m in this predicament where I’ve been so proactive,” she says. “I’ve sent emails to everybody, like I’ve done everything I’m supposed to do but the threat is imminent.”

That being said, Todd Durie, who was the one responsible for building the motocross jumps and riding his bike on the land next to Sarah’s house in the fall, says they will not be back this summer. He plans on building a house on the property in the future ,and admits that the jumps may have been too close to the residence next door. He says he is committed to making sure any further use of motocross bikes on the property does not disturb the neighbours. “I don’t want to create problems,” he says. “We’ll be here and maybe they’ll be there forever, and hopefully we can get along.”

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