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Too much noise about nothing?

Steve Campbell

Steve Campbell

One more kick at the Special Events Bylaw, just in case this devil-spawned document manages to survive the outrage of the County community, and comes back to life like the killer in a bad horror movie.

I finally received a response from my event liability insurers for my fake Country Jamboree – one-day event, 100 people, free admission, no booze, no food, no vendors.
The cost? $369.36, tax in. It’s worthy of note that, even if Council drops the $500 permit fee completely, and keeps the $5 million liability clause, we would be in for $370 before we actually start paying for the costs of our event!
Also, the onerous 35-page ‘fine print’ lists all of the things your insurance does not cover which, as far as I can tell without reading every line, is everything.
This is a bylaw born on a whim, crafted using stock-and-trade rules by people trained in bureaucracy, without regard for common human behaviour. Some councillors favour a ‘revised’ version, which will give us about a year before it’s kicked to the curb again. I can’t see this turning into a warmer, cuddlier piece of legislation. Total waste of everyone’s time and money.

Noise about Noise
I don’t know quite what is happening in the Council chambers, but someone likes tinkering with bylaws while Rome burns.
Out of nowhere, it was decided to tighten up the noise bylaw, which was so loosely-worded that it allowed County people to have fun.
All in all, there’s not too much to be alarmed about in the revamped bylaw – the biggest problem seemed to be setting a ‘closing time’ for outdoor noise.
My issue is that any bylaw that has a whole pile of exemptions from the bylaw exhibits what I call ‘targeting’.
In other words, the bylaw is intended to curtail the activities of some people – like entertainment venues – and exempt other people – like farmers and construction workers. And, of course, all municipal activities – good idea to exempt yourselves!
Somebody (I don’t know who) is targeting a particular person/business (I don’t know who) with hardly scalpel-like precision.
The number of references to “barn” events with the “barn doors open” letting the sound out seems to be an out-of-place example in a bylaw.
It sounds like more of a warning you might get from a big guy with a black shirt and a white tie, holding a baseball bat.
My main point is: Trying to target a few people – as they did in the original 2012 bylaw – unintentionally targets hundreds of people you forgot to exempt.
It also opens the Council floor to become a forum for the traditional County neighbour disputes. As a County boy, I call them ‘fence disputes’ from the days when neighbouring farmers challenged the fence lines, in hopes of getting a few extra feet of tillable land.
In those days, and today, these were usually settled face to face, with angry words … and the two combatants never speak to each other again.
But the demographic of the County is changing, and I suspect some of the new people – and very few individuals at that – don’t get how the County people live … with occasional fun, and gatherings of good friends and neighbours.
In the County way, when we have our annual friends-and-family bash, we not only notify the neighbours, we invite them to join the fun. (We wouldn’t be violating the bylaw anyway, because the mosquitoes shut us down at 9 p.m.)
But Council would rather throw this problem at the Chief Bylaw Officer to solve, and respond to, as outlined in the bylaw.
Not sure how this works, but I hesitate to give you his home phone number, so you can call him at 12:01, so he can wake up, get dressed, and drive to Cressy … hoping against hope to arrive before the noise stops.
And how much noise is allowable after 11 p.m. (or possibly midnight – this is still under discussion) and before 7 a.m.? 60 decibels.
Sound reasonable? Like me, you don’t have a clue. But Google knew.
60 dB is the equivalent of normal conversation at three feet. You can compare this to 30 dB (a whisper in a quiet library) or 85 dB (the noise of city traffic from inside a car). So 60 is less noise than a passing car or, if you live on County Road 11, 800,000 passing cars day and night. (Worthy of note: A telephone dial tone is 80 dB!)
Also worthy of note, the bylaw denotes decibels as Db, not dB, which means they can’t read the meter either.
This is important, because that measurement is made by a sound meter (an SLM ProKIT 1000 or equivalent, in case you have one kicking around in your basement) taking a reading at the “Point of Reception,” i.e. the property of the complainant.
This section does not explain how you can get the guy with the meter on your property at 2 a.m. But I’ll bet he’d be some kind of ticked off if he only gets 59 dB on his reading.

All of this talk, and Word on the Street tells me the noise complaints received at Shire Hall can be counted on the fingers of one hand.
In short, this is a pig in a poke. It affects few, and harms whoever the target people are.
Hardly worth addressing – or re-addressing – as a Council.
But hey, if you have nothing else to worry about, like water rates, bridge construction, invasion of IWTs into Milford, destruction of our hospital and our crumbling infrastructure, then I guess you have to find something – even nothing – to bylaw about.

Filed Under: News from Everywhere ElseSteve Campbell

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  1. Gary says:

    The Picton Gazette article clearly indicates no regret by the Municipality on the departure or any feeling of impact on services.

  2. Dennis Fox says:

    OK – I think I see where our problem lies. I am and have been in agreement and supporting Steve’s article – the by-laws are an unnecessary waste of time. What I am trying to point out is – that far too many times COUNCIL is not listening to senior staff and are simply reacting to a few voices out there in the community – just like Steve suggested! Compound that with this current council’s desire to get rid of senior staff who try to influence their decision and direction – Poof,they are gone! I believe this community does loss a great deal when staff with expertise and experience are lost because Council decided to get rid of them. Don’t think that by losing good staff that it improves our operations or transparency – staff in PEC is not allowed to influence such things – but they should.

  3. Emily says:

    Reading it very clearly. You continue to push forward expertise and experience as being a loss. Don’t know how you arrived at that conclusion.

  4. Liza says:

    Well I don’t normally post but this is as good a time as any. While I agree with a lot of your posts Dennis, and I certainly think that the by-laws have gone beyond ridiculous, I have to agree with Emily and Gary on this one.

    Correct me if I am wrong, but by-laws are based on staff reports. These reports start out at the department level then go on to the Commissioners and CAO where there is significant potential for alterations to the recommendation and report content. The altered recommendations and report go to Council where they discuss it and pass by-laws.

    This departure is an opportunity to improve the situation. Perhaps stronger leadership at the operational level will improve the by-law issues. Perhaps it could also improve transparency and information to both Council and the public. Perhaps then Council would feel less need to interfere operationally.

    Finally, it does not matter how much expertise and experience a senior manager has if it is not being used to the community’s benefit. There will not be a lot of tears shed over this one.

  5. Dennis Fox says:

    Some of you people are not reading this article, nor my original comments. Obviously some of you have a personal opinion on the Commissioner who has left. My comments were not about her personally, nor were they about McFarland Home. My comments focused in on the loss of yet another senior staff member – expertise and experience this community cannot afford to lose – which contributes greatly to our Council being like a ship without a rudder – thus the re-visiting of crazy by-laws! Which this article is about.

  6. Gary says:

    Dennis; did you read the glowing comments from our Municipality on the departure? No you didn’t. You need to be able to add 1 + 1. This departure leaves a death field of very good municipal employees. As for the McFarland Home it was brought from a respected and sought facility to one that is on it’s knees!

  7. Emily says:

    Your perception that this is a loss for the County is where we disagree Dennis.

  8. Dennis Fox says:

    Emily and Susan – Please read my comments again. I believe you may have misunderstood them. I have not mentioned the problems at McFarland Home and I certainly have not blamed Ms. Turnbull for them. My comments have focused on Council and their lack of performance and the loss of yet another Commissioner with good qualifications and experience. I believe that by losing such a person in our municipal government is a loss for this community.

  9. Emily says:

    Dennis, I wouldn’t say we are a big loser because of it other than the $$ forfeited. There is an old saying “what goes around comes around”!

  10. Susan says:

    Dennis that crap was going on at McFarland Home during the Merlin era!! To be fair this council inherited that mess! I don’t think Ms Turnbull departure had anything to do with that mess! Guess we shall wait and see after the dust clears! I know I don’t live in a glass house or have a crystal ball either!!

  11. wevil says:

    i agree with many of your points Steve and i also think we lost another commissioner because she took the fall for what has gone on at the County Home. there is always a fall guy for the crap that flies in this County.when will the mayor be the fall guy

  12. Dennis Fox says:

    Emily – sorry I’m not sure what you mean. My comment was to reflect that anther Commissioner is lost to this community, and we are the big loser because of it. Since I don’t know the facts motivating her departure, I can only imagine what they might be.

  13. Emily says:

    Dennis, you close by making it sound like we lost a Commissioner not by our choice. You need a lesson on the infamous workings of Shire Hall.

  14. Dennis Fox says:

    I thinks that Chris makes an excellent point – certainly worth Steve’s attention. However; I want to focus in on our council right now. What needs to be remembered is that our Council wants to be remembered as a Council of “doers.” They don’t seem to care about what they do, but they just want to be seen as doing something – anything! They can’t leave well enough alone – so they don’t! Now from my own recent experience – I wrote to my councillors and mayor asking them to explain the water restrictions by-law which seemed to imply they had control over farmers drawing water from Roblin Lake, as well as. control over private wells. From their take on it -YUP, they do – but we know they don’t – thus the diver charade! Since last spring, I wrote to my councillors and Mayor, and I attended a Town Hall Meeting, at their request, to explain a speeding traffic problem in Northport. Despite the fact that at least two private citizens have had to erect their own signs asking drivers to slow down, plus at least one “verbal” police report given to me by one of my councillors (months ago) confirming that a problem exist – still no action from our representatives. Are their responses or lack of action due to me being a “newbie?” NO, it just reflects the level our councillors are used to performing to. They will discuss for hours a drainage ditch or employees taking town trucks home, or nonsensical by-laws – but whose fault is that? Whether you are a newbie or an oldie – it just ain’t good enough! And yet another Commissioner leaves our municipality to work in another community, while our council of 16 fiddles, and we get to pay for it all.

  15. Mark R says:

    Well said, Chris. Unfortunately too often this is the case. Skids left garbage all over the side of the road? Must be tourists! I’d take a 1,000 tourists over one local yokel sitting in front of Tim Hortons 12 hours a day, contributing nothing to the community in which they live. Somehow that must be someone from Toronto’s fault though.

  16. Chris Keen says:

    Steve if, on the one hand, you “don’t know” who is “targeting a particular person/business” then why suggest it is “new people” who are the cause? There’s enough “us against them” in this community, as this comment board amply demonstrates, without you fanning the fire.

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