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Nuisance noise bylaw under review

Kailey Chapman, Lynne Ellis and Mark Henry, of Fields on West Lake, are the cover story in the Dec. 2010 issue of Better Farming. The story is about how a growing number of farmers are turning to agri-tourism to provide income.

By Ross Lees
Mark Henry is making a lot of noise about Prince Edward County’s noise and nuisance bylaw.
Some of Henry’s neighbours filed complaints through the County’s noise and nuisance bylaw regarding his Fields On West Lake operation  – complaints that have resulted in a court case and legal costs to Henry and his partner Lynn Ellis.
The problem in Henry’s mind and that of others familiar with the situation, is that the bylaw paints with too broad a brush when it uses terminology like “noise liable to disturb.” Henry and others believe “noise liable to disturb” can mean anything from music to loud cheering to perhaps even gospel singing, depending on what one’s neighbours might think of the potential noise.
Henry and Ellis thought they had a good chance of defending the charges, but lost their court challenge and now believe it is impossible to operate their business under the current bylaw if some of their neighbours persist with noise complaints.
Henry would like council to revisit the bylaw, a move another neighbour feels is absolutely necessary. In fact, Peter Sztuke and other councillors when the bylaw was passed, argued vehemently against the loosely worded document when it was being considered, saying it was “unenforceable,” but it was passed anyway.
At council on Monday night, Sztuke wanted to correct newspaper reports stating one neighbour represented all neighbours of the Fields on West Lake.
“He speaks for a limited number of neighbours,” Sztuke stated. “I am a neighbour and I hear noise from the children’s camp, from the Wesley Acres park, from motorcycles on the highway and from a lot of things, and all violate the current bylaw. I argued on council that the bylaw was unenforceable and what we predicted would happen has happened.”
Despite hiring sound engineers to refute the charges against them, more charges were filed and costs to Henry and Ellis continue to mount. They are now restricted to operating their business between the hours of 6 a.m. and 7 p.m.
Henry suggested many other businesses could also be affected in this way at the whim of their neighbours.
“I would suggest that the broader implications of our case will encourage others to have the County attack neighbours, and private and public facilities across the County. The Waring House, Huff’s, Isaiah Tubbs, the many wineries which hold functions, the Crystal Palace, the Picton Legion, the Elks Hall all make noise – even traffic on our roads might have to be curtailed because, as we found, noise on the Loyalist Parkway in front of our place was almost twice as loud as we were. The new Essroc arena may have to deal with charges as weddings, dances like this year’s New Year’s eve ball, to say nothing of hockey games are going to be open for charges from neighbours not used to this new activity. The list is extensive and will be very divisive to say nothing of the expense to taxpayers if everyone could press charges under this County bylaw.”
Henry pleaded with council to repeal the bylaw.
“I ask the you repeal this bylaw and drop all of the current charges. Please consider an approach which uses measurable standards applied evenly across the County and we will adhere,” he stated.
Ameliasburgh ward councillor Dianne O’Brien agreed with Henry that the current bylaw could result in round after round of charges.
“Let’s drop the charges and tighten up the wording in the bylaw,” she said.
Council agreed to review the bylaw and requested a report to the committee of the whole in January identifying methods of addressing complaints from residents impacted by noise from nearby commercial, tourist and retail establishments in various locations throughout the County, and that petitions received from the public supporting a review of the nuisance bylaw be received.

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  1. Lori Smith says:

    I certainly feel for the owners of the Fields on West Lake as I have spent many enjoyable evenings attending events held there. I agree that the current noise by-law, using an unquantifiable “nuisance” factor is ridiculous. Since council has used it, and the charges have been upheld, this sets a very dangerous precedence for others to follow. Just think of the charges one could lay agains any construction company working in the County, or the farmers who use “corn cannons”, or those large harvestors working in the late summer fields at night, the skatboarders in our new skate park – the homes across from the fairgronds on Hwy 49 can hear them several streets over I am told, and the list goes on…

  2. Gary & Nancy Parks says:

    Like Peter Sztuke we are also neighbours to Mark and Lynne and are also not being represented by the party that are representing “all the neighbours” We are “down wind” with the prevailing breeze which in the past has carried sounds from the Fields on West Lake to our place. At no time has the noise from this facility been a “nuisance” to us. On the odd occasion that we have heard music our inclination is to smile and think that perhaps a group of people are celebrating a special moment in their lives like a wedding, birthday party etc. It is no different then when at midnight on a Friday night all the noise of the cars that are going by our place with people coming to vacation here. We are thankful we are not one of them, obviously caught in traffic coming out of Toronto. It is no different then when we hear the dinner bell or the singing at Camp Trillium. We could say it might be a nuisance, hardly……come on people. People in this neighbourhood should be thankful that this property has been so beautifully restored and maintained. On numerous occasions people stop beside the road taking pictures of this beautiful property. We are all blessed to live in this wonderful community. At any moment we could all be in so much more difficult circumstances that are not of our own doing. We are all trying to make a living with the circumstances that we have. Why would someone want to purposely take that away from another, especially a neighbour?
    Signed: Lots of head shaking going on in the neighbourhood

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