Adrian and Marina Boons hope a new Abbotsford noise bylaw will finally help them sleep easier.
The Boons and several of their neighbours were among those who spoke in favour of new rules that will put defined limits on the amount of noise allowed before it’s considered too loud.
But the manager of one of the businesses fingered by locals as the source of some of the noise said the decibel limits suggested by the bylaw could put a strain on the enterprise’s operations.
Under the bylaw, which was given three readings at Monday’s council meeting and is now likely headed for adoption, noise generated in commercial and industrial “activity districts” would be limited to 70 decibels day and night, or 55 decibels as measured in nearby residential zones. Noise generated in residential “quiet districts” would be limited to 55 decibels during the day and 45 at night.
The bylaw also allows for construction-related noise for up to 85 decibels during weekdays and Saturday. Staff told council that most bylaw complaints involve noise levels between 65 and 70 decibels. The bylaw also still bans any noisy activities that can disturb others, and will continue to apply to things such as noisy cars, megaphones, and phonographs (and more-frequently seen noise-emitting devices like CD players).
The bylaw was prompted by a 2015 visit to council by Adrian Boons in which he said noise coming from a nearby industrial park was too loud and disturbed he and his neighbours’ lives. Staff then consulted with the public and found most people they talked to wanted the city to set firm limits on how much sound was permissible, as several other municipalities, including the Township of Langley and City of Chilliwack, have done. The city’s previous bylaw regulated sound subjectively, with noise deemed loud enough to “disturb” banned.
The public was given a chance to comment on the proposed new rules Monday before council made a decision. Several people spoke about the impact noise from nearby businesses had had on their lives, including Marina Boons, who said a high-pitched noise has driven her from her master bedroom to one in the front of her house, away from the industrial park. But neither that, nor various earplugs, have alleviated the problem, she said.
“That high pitch goes right through those earplugs … When it starts with that high pitch, I get nightmare after nightmare. It just hammers your brain. You can’t sleep with it. It’s horrible.”
Many of those who spoke fingered Ritchie Smith Feeds’ Industrial Avenue mill as one of the sources of the local noise.
While many residents of the Juniper Crescent neighbourhood suggested the situation had grown markedly worse in the last three years, Dave Dieleman, the general manager of Ritchie Smith Feeds, said nothing has changed in recent years. He also told council that the limits set by the bylaw should be higher.
“When I think about what’s proposed here, we couldn’t even turn on our mills at that level,” said. “If we start talking about decibel levels, what was proposed in the presentation today are far too low to allow us to operate. That would probably be the same for all our neighbours in the area as well.”
Council, though, sided with the residents, and voted to move three readings of the bylaw.
Coun. Dave Loewen was most vocal, saying businesses should take steps to mitigate noise they produce.
“Until I hear anything to the contrary, I would expect the industries that are emitting sound beyond the acceptable level need to take extra measures to mitigate those sounds, regardless of the costs, unless it’s impossible, and I haven’t heard it’s impossible,” Loewen said. “I suspect there are many other industrial sites around our province and our country where they are taking steps to protect those urban areas neighbouring their industrial areas from the harsh sounds that are produced.”