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Damn, that’s loud

Steve Campbell

Council is readdressing its noise bylaw. No big surprise, because their first attempt was a disaster. I was watching this, as I’m prone to do, and years ago Council struggled hard to build a noise bylaw that specifically targeted rural venues.
This whole thing came up because neighbours complained about occasional concerts in two County locations. OK, I get that. My neighbour has two hounds, and their combined chorus sounds like a mountain lion dismembering a child. I was tempted to kill a deer, and just throw the carcass onto the doghouse, just to shut them up. I don’t know how long it takes to eat a deer, but it might keep them quiet for a while.

So let’s start here. I like peace and quiet. Pretty much everyone who chooses the County likes it too.
But this is not a situation which can be solved, without actually targeting the offenders. This is what I don’t like about bylaws. Unlike me, Council needs to build a bylaw that encompasses everyone, because they can’t come straight out and say: Here’s the jerks who are causing problems.
So they construct a bylaw which, as time goes by, turns out to be not so great. Not that it wasn’t somewhat effective. The new proposed bylaw is just changing the wording, and kicked up a whole new argument in Council, according reports in The Picton Gazette.
There are two problems here:
1) People are selfish irresponsible jerks who, regardless of age, have access to copious amounts of alcohol. And they party. I know this, because I also have access to copious amounts of alcohol, so I write columns. It’s kind of a silent endeavour, so the cops haven’t found me yet, to charge me with: ‘Furious keyboard pounding’.
2) Occasionally we like to have fun. We like concerts and plays and any event which might draw us out of our COVID doldrum. As you know, there are great things going on in the County. That’s what makes us … us! Sadly, most of them happen after 7 p.m.
And that’s an issue.

Wrestling with Time
Now here’s the problem. Council has enforcement officers for daytime infringements. Say your neighbour wants to use a chainsaw, just because he likes to use a chainsaw, because manly men do that, and you are hosting a tea party in which the Queen might appear. Yes, this is an annoyance, and it is reportable. Probably not in time to prevent sawdust in your tea, but soon.
Most people who expect response from the County think that there’s a pile of County workers sitting in a room somewhere, drinking coffee, and waiting for the phone to ring. Not so. I see them in hot sun, working to keep the County moving. I understand they do not also have a pole to slide down in a ‘noise’ emergency’. I’m working on that.

It’s still about time
So, here’s the problem. The County runs a kind of monarchy. They want, and do, control pretty much everywhere we can go, everywhere we park, and find as many ways as possible to make everything we can do – including living on our land – pay into the pot. Sorry if I painted them as Dark Overlords, but that’s how government runs.
As I see it, the revisit to the noise bylaw was not because it sucked, but that the wording was inadequate. Does anyone in the world care? Is this is what staff is told to work on? “I really like the bylaw, but the wording does not sit right with me? Something more Shakespearian might be in order?”
I can write this right now, two weeks before you will read it, because I’m damn sure this will not be resolved by the time this column appears. No Amazon Psychic degree required.
The time thing is a problem. County people leave at say, 5 o’clock. Everyone admits – even Councillors – that if you are going to have a sound complaint, it will happen after 7p.m.
That’s where the OPP come in. “Hey it’s 5:05, now you got our job!” That’s why it’s about time.
The OPP wants this job as they want all of the many calls they get every day and every night. They are not bylaw enforcers, when the County team checks out. They are not the nannys, waiting for the bylaw officers to check back in.
Cops have a lot to do, and this is the argument before Council, which wants to pass off the ‘after 7 p.m. noise’ complaints to the OPP.

So here’s where it gets weird
Cops do a lot of good stuff. When I was a reporter, I once held the end of the long tape to register the skidmarks of the driver of a high-powered Mustang who passed a long string of cars at high-speed, and piled into a van turning left. Eight people dead. That was the least I could do.
The thing is, cops take care of bad situations. I’m sure they’re thrilled when they get a call for a domestic dispute, in which spouses are throwing empty bottles of Corona at each other (saving the full ones for a later dispute).
To them (and I haven’t asked), being handed the job of keeping the County quiet ‘after hours’ is probably not on the top of their ‘must do’ list. People complain. They complain about everything. Nine to five: The County. Six to dawn: the cops.
Ask any County worker, or any cop: People are a pain in the butt. Problem is, we carry on being pains until the middle of the night.
I know that County and OPP have an agreement, but it seems it’s something like: “Hey it’s 5 o’clock. Take out the garbage before morning.” This does not seem like a fair relationship. Noise happens. Noise mostly happens at night. In the daytime, you’re probably drowning out the sound of your neighbour’s dog by playing the ‘Pina Colada’ song on your patio over and over until your brain melts. (Top of my list of Worst Songs Ever Recorded.)
This may not be a problem with ‘wording’ of the noise bylaw, but the structure of it. Passing responsibility to a ‘babysitter’ and walking away? In this case, I’m pretty sure the babysitter has more important things to do.
It’s like asking a guy who is disarming a nuclear bomb if he can check your cell phone to figure out why you only only have three bars.
Noise is a problem. But I think it should be a problem for the perpetrators, not for the enforcers.

  • Steve Campbell is editor and publisher of County Magazine, and the author of several books, including The County Handbook: How to Survive in Prince Edward County.

Filed Under: News from Everywhere ElseSteve Campbell

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  1. Dan says:

    Right on as always Steve.

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