In the wake of a legal complaint about noise from an outdoor pickleball court, town council has changed Niagara-on-the-Lake's noise bylaw to permit recreational noise in public parks from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.
“Initially when our noise bylaw came out nobody would have thought that people would complain about noise from parks,” Coun. Erwin Wiens said during a council meeting on Monday, May 30.
“And so what this is meant is to give our parks the ability to exceed the noise levels. Because as we all know that, at a park, whether it's baseball, soccer, whatever — people cheering, carrying on — it's going to go against our bylaw," he said.
“We just finished the Stampede, which of course was against the bylaw all weekend long.”
Wiens put the motion forward as an amendment to schedule A of the noise bylaw, which establishes permitted sounds.
The councillor worked with town staff to ensure there was still a failsafe in the bylaw so that noise is not given free rein in parks.
The amendment specifies that noise in the park has to be approved by the director of operations and that the director has the ability to limit any specific noise or recreational activity between 7 a.m. and 11 p.m.
Wiens said the amendment is designed so that it does not target any specific activities.
Coun. Sandra O’Connor felt the amendment could use more work to outline its details.
“I know that you're saying that it's in the hands of the director of parks or operations but we've given that director no guidance,” O'Connor said.
She also said the change is premature as the town is awaiting a court ruling regarding the sound of pickleball disturbing a resident who lives next to the Centennial Sports Park.
That ruling is expected on June 15.
“I believe we have an obligation to take all steps possible when its our property to reduce the discomfort to surrounding neighbours,” Lord Mayor Betty Disero said
She supported the amendment but was concerned it would send a message that the town does not care about residents' issues with noise in parks.
Coun. Clare Cameron said the bylaw change was hypocritical of the town.
“We're wanting some days to be more restrictive on noise in town, which many of you have said that you want to be when it's on private property and yet we want carte blanche to do whatever we like,” Cameron said.
Coun. Wendy Cheropita, who previously didn't support the amendment, changed her view, noting it means the town "will mitigate noise wherever possible or have mitigating factors.”
“Some (complaints) are very legitimate. But this is a park and I think we have to support the ability for people to be free to take part in activities in our community,” she said, especially after a two-year pandemic.
Cameron, O’Connor and Coun. Gary Burroughs voted against the amendment.
Evan Saunders, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Lake Report