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Council to revisit noise bylaw in a year

By Nicole Kleinsteuber
County Council will no longer entertain an ongoing feud between two neighbouring businesses regarding proposed amendments to the current noise bylaw.

“We’re very pleased with the council’s decision to keep the existing bylaw as it is,” said owner of Fields on West Lake Mark Henry in an interview.  “By shutting us down at midnight, all of the businesses that do what we do would feel it, so I guess in a way we were speaking for them too.”

Fields on West Lake owners Mark Henry and Lynn Ellis have been arguing with Dave and Mary-Lynn Ashton, who operate a neighbouring cottage resort, about noise levels generated from the Henry’s red barn hall during weekend wedding events.

“They’re trying to turn over the county for one night,” said Henry.  “The county has become a phenomenally important area for everyone when it comes to accommodations and restaurants.”

During his deputation to council Tuesday night, Henry said this argument has been ongoing for three and a half years.  Henry said the dispute started in April 2008 when he wanted to add accommodations for his guests attending weddings.  Henry said the Ashtons said they would do what ever it took to prevent us from getting approval.

“They remain excessively true to their word,” said Henry.

“We’ve been truly broken financially, mentally and physically by this relentless onslaught to destroy us,” said Henry to council.  “Nothing has been too outrageous for this couple.”

Henry said he has spent $18,000 in provincial court to try and prove that the old bylaw was flawed.  He said he spent $10,000 on a sound study from a sound company named Valcoustics.  Overall, Henry said trying to resolve this issue has cost him $100,000.

“We’re serious about monitoring noise,” said Henry.  “We monitor and graph sound at every event and we sound-proofed the barn.”

He asked council not to change the current noise bylaw enforcing a maximum 60-decibel limit after midnight.

Family, friends, business owners and neighbours of Henry and Ellis including the Ashtons filled the chambers awaiting a chance to speak to council about changing the proposed bylaw.

“The change to the bylaw would possibly destroy the business,” said Judith Popiel during her deputation to council. “If you want to do that you’ll have many ramifications.”

A petition for Fields on West Lake has been circulating a Facebook group of 950 followers titled, “We love fields on West Lake.

“If noise was the issue then why are our neighbours signing our petition in favour of our business?” asked Kailey Ellis-Chapman during her deputation.

“We’ve been slammed pretty hard in the public, by Kailey on Facebook and were tired of it,” said Mary-Lynn Ashton.  “We can hear the noise in our bedroom.  We need this limit so we can have a barrier of peace.”

A neighbour of Fields on West Lake, Richard Parks, said he doesn’t hold much credence to people who sign a Facebook petition who don’t live near Fields on West Lake.

“You have to be there to experience it,” said Parks.  “Anyone who lives within 1,000 feet of that property knows there’s a noise problem.”

Parks compared the unlimited noise bylaw to motorists driving at unlimited speeds.

“We all have cars that are capable of exceeding the speed, is that good for society as a whole because we can drive fast?” said Parks.

“It’s not petty,” said Dave Ashton.  “The unlimited noise is unhealthy.  This bylaw poses an awful threat.”

“It seems petty what’s going on,” said Stephanie Sokolowski.  “I don’t think it’s fair from one side to the other.  Mark has gone to all the trouble and expense on his side that he’s abiding by the regulations, so where’s the proof on the other side?  It’s just all talk and talk doesn’t prove anything.”

“Everybody is waiting for summer time in the county,” said Angeline’s of Bloomfield owner Monica Fida.  “This is a happy place to be and noise comes with it.  It only lasts for 3-4 months and then we have all winter to wait for that noise again.”

“This is a council not a courtroom,” said councillor Shortt.  “We have to create a bylaw which is good for an entire municipality not for one area.”

Shortt opposes the change saying there will be a problem every time a farmer takes their tractor out in their field or someone starts their car.

“A decibel reader will become the weapon of choice,” said Shortt.

Councillor Forrester is in favour of changing the bylaw.
“To have unlimited noise in any zoning other than residential at any given time is silly,” said Forrester.  “We are not doing any thing to protect our residents.

Mayor Mertens said he doesn’t agree with the amendment as it will keep police and bylaw officers busy every day.

“This is not a run-away problem or issue,” said Mertens. This is a county issue.  It affects other businesses like the Crystal Palace and the Elks Hall.

The amendment was defeated in an 11 to 5 vote with councillors Jim Dunlop, Jamie Forrester, Brian Marisett, Dianne O’Brien and Barbara Proctor in favour of the change.

Councillor Quaiff said this bylaw hasn’t been in place long enough to determine whether or not it will work.

The council will take a look at the bylaw in a year to see if changes are needed.

Filed Under: Local News

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