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Proposed noise bylaw deemed too restrictive

Mountain View County's proposed noise control bylaw is ìtrying to kill a fly with a hammer,î one councillor objected last week.ìThere's areas here where we're really stepping over the boundaries of what government should be doing,î Div. 4 Coun.

Mountain View County's proposed noise control bylaw is ìtrying to kill a fly with a hammer,î one councillor objected last week.ìThere's areas here where we're really stepping over the boundaries of what government should be doing,î Div. 4 Coun. Bruce Beattie said during Wednesday's council meeting.The bylaw, which goes to public hearing on April 6, would exempt agricultural operations and other activities, but Beattie questioned several prohibitions contained in the document:ï The night-time operation in a residential area of a model aircraft, boat, vehicle or similar device that is powered by an internal combustion engine.ï Idling a truck-tractor or tractor trailer unit for longer than 20 minutes, or 45 minutes when the outside temperature is colder than ñ25 C, in a residential district or within 150 metres of a residential district.ï Playing a stereo, boombox or other vehicle speaker system ìrepeatedly or excessively.îï Racing a vehicle engine ìso as to cause excessive and unnecessary noise.îìIt seems to me that some of these are just a bit beyond what a municipality should be trying to do,î Beattie said.ìIt opens the door for frivolous complaints.îDiv. 1 Coun. Kevin Good concurred with Beattie.ìIt seems like we're erring on the side of restriction,î Good said.The bylaw, he suggested, could come into play if he was having friends over for some skeet shooting on his property. By including such onerous prohibitions in the bylaw at first reading, he said, ìwe're just going to get people worked up over nothingî at the public hearing.ìThis is all complaint driven,î Div. 5 Coun. Bob Orr responded. ìIf you hold a shooting event and you're not responsible, why should a gun club be held responsible?îOther councillors said the public should weigh in on the bylaw as written.ìI assume what was put there was (based on) what we received on a complaint basis,î Div. 2 Coun. Patricia McKean said. ìI like the public having a say on it.îDiv. 7 Coun Al Kemmere said he understood Beattie's and Good's concerns. ìBut I'd rather take this the way it sits right now, hear what the public says at the hearing, and then make the amendments after.îìThat's good in theory,î Good countered, ìbut when we put something like this out there, it sort of implies this is where we want to be.îSince amending the bylaw would require legal vetting and delay the April 6 public hearing date, councillors agreed to pass the bylaw in its current form but notify the public that, in Kemmere's words, ìthis is a non-statutory public hearing and we're looking for your amendments.îìThat's the way to go,î Reeve Paddy Munro affirmed.Council passed first reading with only Good opposed.First presented in draft form in 2009, the noise control bylaw was shelved for more than a year to give the Mountain View Marksman Association and area residents time to work out their differences.Section 4 of the bylaw gives council discretion to regulate hours of operation, specify noise attenuation measures, place limits on number of users or set other standards for any permitted activity, on either a site-specific basis or based on class, category or type of use.Under its General Prohibition section, the bylaw specifies that during the day or night no person shall ìmake, continue, cause or allow Ö any loud, excessive, unnecessary or unusual noise of any type,î allow any property to be used to the same effect, or operate or allow a speaker system at ìan unnecessarily loud volume, thereby creating excessive noise.îWhether a noise complaint is valid will be determined by a county peace officer, and CAO Tony Martens noted: ìThere's a certain amount of discretion our peace officers use.îIf a noise order is issued or a complaint deemed invalid, either party will have 14 days to appeal. Appeals will be heard by public members of the subdivision and development appeal board, interim legislative and community services director Jeff Holmes said.At Good's request, Holmes said exemptions under the bylaw would be highlighted in the county's communications strategy. The exemptions are:ï Agricultural operations.ï Emergency vehicles.ï Construction activities and related noise during the daytime.ï Work performed on a highway or public utility by the owner or operator of the public utility, or its contractors.ï Aeronautical-related activities of any airports located within or near the county.ï Any activity within the sole jurisdictions of the provincial or federal governments.ï Any activity for which a special event permit has been obtained.ï Energy resource development regulated by the ERCB.ï Discharge of a firearm in accordance with the Wildlife Act.The bylaw will also not prevent: the ringing of bells in churches or schools, the use of signalling devices on vehicles in their normal operation, the sounding of an alarm to announce a fire or other emergency, the playing of a band or other activity in a lawful parade, or the use of signalling devices such as scare cannons to control problem wildlife.