Saturday morning construction start to stay at 7 a.m. after motion fails

Councillors look to reduce 'budget fakery' with $1 a month infrastructure levy

A motion to delay construction on Saturday morning by two hours failed at Thursday's community and protective services committee.

In its review of the city's noise by-law, staff did not recommend any changes to the 7 a.m. start time for general construction on Saturdays. 

But some councillors were interested in delaying Saturday construction until 9 a.m., a fact that the construction industry was cognizant of, as they argued against the potential change even before it was officially proposed.

Both the Ottawa Construction Association and National Capital Heavy Construction Association told the committee that delaying Saturday construction start times would hurt their workers and delay projects, hence extending the amount of time construction takes place.

Coun. George Darouze, argued against changing the times, pointing out that there are only about 65 complaints about early-morning construction.

"We're not talking about a major problem in the city," Darouze said.

But Coun. Tobi Nussbuam, who moved the motion to delay Saturday construction, pointed out that a city survey shows that about 10 per cent of respondents indicated they were frequently or consistently disturbed by noise.

"That's 100,000 people," said Nussbaum.

He also pointed out that both the city and private contractors can apply for exemptions to the noise bylaw for special circumstances, such as a need to have a project finished on a tight timeline. (This was the case with Lansdowne construction.)

Nussbaum's motion called for general construction on Saturdays, Sundays and statutory holidays to be allowed only between 9 a.m. and 10 p.m.

Toronto only allows construction on Saturdays between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m., and prohibits it outright on Sundays and statutory holidays.

It was a close vote, with councillors Darouze, Keith Egli, Rick Chiarelli, and Diane Deans voting against.

Coun. Michael Qaqish was not at the table for the vote. It appears he left the committee meeting temporarily to attend the opening of a new churros shop in the ByWard Market.

It's all about the bass

One change to the proposed noise rules is that bylaw officers will now have the ability to specifically enforce low-frequency, or "bass" noise, which was not explicitly included in the former version of the bylaw.

Roger Chapman, the city's chief of bylaws, said bass noise can travel further than high-frequency noise and causes vibrations —a disturbance not currently covered by the current bylaw. 

Officers may get called to a condo or apartment building, where a stereo system in one unit may not be blaring, but the bass it booming.

"We go into a unit, and we can see the pictures on the wall vibrating on the walls, but we're not getting a reading on our noise readers," said Chapman.

Representatives from the non-profit group Ottawa Festivals told councillors they were disappointed that they were not consulted about the noise by-law, but Chapman reassured them that the addition of bass noise to the bylaw is not about concerts and festivals.

In fact, 95 per cent of the complaints the city received about bass noise are about house parties, he said.

As well, groups can apply for exemptions to the noise bylaw for concerts and festivals.

"The businesses and the festival organizers have worked collaboratively with us," said Chapman.

Changes to the noise by-law will still need to be approved by the full council.