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Noise bylaw exemption granted for Royal Canadian Legion Br. 157

Updated: 2 days ago

Legion Branch 157

A noise bylaw exemption and waiver of fees was granted for Royal Canadian Legion Br. 157 but it was the noise issue in particular that has neighbours concerned.


The issue of outside entertainment and the volume thereof was the subject of three delegations before Amherstburg town council Monday night, and while council agreed to the exemption, council members did urge all parties to work together on the ongoing issue. The Legion was granted a noise exemption to allow music Friday and Saturday nights from 6-10 p.m. and Sundays from 2-6 p.m.


Gary Wellman, joined by his wife Carmelina, appeared before council with Gary noting they have appeared before on the matter. Wellman believed there is “excessive noise” coming from the Dalhousie St. branch's patio. Noting noise exemptions have been granted in previous years, Wellman believed there was a “corresponding obligation” not to abuse it if there are inconvenience to others.


“It's not every performance, but it's the majority of the performances,” said Wellman. “The fact they can perform without excessive noise on occasion, based on the bands they have chosen to play there or the volume they have the bands play at, says to me they can control excessive noise from their patio but for some reason they don't seem to be able to or want to or be able to control the bands to do that.”


Wellman recalled an acoustical engineer was hired by the town during the last term of town council, and said that person “was shocked at the volume of noise that is received at our point of reception.” He added town council tried to place a limit on volume, which he said exceeded 100 decibels. Wellman said the engineer stated that exceeded the decibel level under the flight path near Toronto's Pearson Airport.


“We have had this going on for years. The thought of expanding it to three days from two days just adds more aggravation to what we're experiencing,” said Wellman.


A limitation to decibel levels was subject of a presentation to council by administration, with Wellman recalling it not being enforced due to a lack of equipment and training, plus additional man hours.


“Decibel monitoring equipment is not that expensive, it's not difficult to use. I've used it myself,” he said. “Licensing may not like the fact most of the breaches of the noise bylaw do occur at night. It's not a simple thing where it happens between 9-5 on weekdays only.”


Wellman said it was his opinion that an exemption should be granted only if the Legion agrees to co-operate and keep noise volumes down. He didn't believe they have shown the willingness or ability to do it in the past. He suggested a decibel level maximum of 70 and that exemptions be granted monthly, not for the season as was requested and approved.


Wellman said they enjoy Open Air Weekends and had no problem with the Legion offering outdoor entertainment.


“The real issue is the volume of those performances,” said Wellman.


Another nearby resident, David Beneteau, also outlined his concerns. He said he also spoke on the issue, noting he appeared as far back as 2019.


Beneteau didn't believe administration followed a request for a noise exemption policy, stating a policy would allow public engagement to be done and have the public notified. He said his preference would be that notification be put out to all residents via the River Town Times. Residents on Pickering Dr., Park St., Gore St., Ramsay St. and other areas are now impacted.


“Exemptions get issued for things where you have no control over volume,” he said, using parades and fireworks as examples. “If there is electronic amplification, there is zero excuse not to be able to control the volume.” Beneteau said he is aware of bars that pull plugs from walls if a band is too loud.


Noise gets louder as the night goes on due to rising crowd noise, he added.

“I'm not letting it go now,” he said. “If they get a blanket exemption without an enforceable limit, I'm not going to let it drop.”


Beneteau said other events have also made loud noises, including previous instalments of the TRUE Festival and bands at the Amherstburg's Gone Car Crazy show.


CAO Valerie Critchley defended the town on the issue of it not following a policy properly. She said manager of bylaw enforcement Bill Tetler has the authority to do a bylaw exemption if someone makes an application and pays a fee, and does so five to six times per year. Neighbours are notified in those cases, she said.


The decision Monday night was handled differently because it is a public event the Legion was presenting, with a fee waiver request attached.Royal Canadian Legion Br. 157 president Ernie Gazdig said he respects the other presenters.

“We appreciate opinions, we like to work with people,” he said.


Gazdig said they wanted the exemptions during the entire Open Air Weekends season. Filing them repeatedly during a season would result in “redundant paperwork and excessive fees,” he believed. He said they have to compete with other venues to secure live entertainments and establishments who are also playing music.


“We are a non-profit organization funded by no one,” said Gazdig. “We earn our own keep through donations, members' dues and running the business of the Legion as a recreational and hospitality facility, hence the bands.”


During the summer, the Legion's primary revenue is from the bands, he added.

“We make it our plan to have entertainment whenever we can to increase our revenue,” said Gazdig.


Royal Canadian Legion Br. 157 has also donated to numerous causes, both military-related and other causes in the Amherstburg community. He said donations topped $25,000 over the last year.


“This is why the revenue of the bands outside is very, very important to us,” he said.


The Legion tries to monitor the noise as best as possible, Gazdig continued.

“We're in a tunnel of noise. We're not next to Pearson Airport in a flight path. I think to compare the two is ludicrous in all respects. It doesn't make any sense,” he said.


By “noise tunnel,” he said an effect is created with noise from Dalhousie and Richmond causing it and noise accumulate and magnify when it gets to the Legion. He said they are not responsible for all of the noise.


Bands have been limited in size to three entertainers at a time. If there are issues with bands, they are shut down, he said. If there is a noise complaints, bar stewards will work with the bands to get noise under control.


“We are on top of that,” he said.


Speakers now point south, Gazdig said, and he said he has heard no complaints from people south of their building. Bands have to be booked at least a month in advance, he added, and it is not practical for the Legion to have to ask for exemptions monthly.


Deputy Mayor Chris Gibb said he was worried that the matter could escalate further and possibly end up in the courts.


“I truly fear if we don't settle this neighbour dispute, this is going to escalate into lawsuits, getting lawyers involved and everyone will lose,” said Gibb.


Gibb asked what has “definitively” done to keep the Legion in a 70 decibel range. Gazdig said “we'll make every endeavour” to control the noise level, including telling bands the Legion has a right to control the noise level.


Councillor Diane Pouget asked where the 70 decibel limit came from. Tetler said he didn't know where the 70 decibel level came from, noting there is nothing in the bylaw relating to decibel readings.


“This was debated by council May 24, 2022 and was not passed as part of that motion,” he said.


Pouget wanted to know what can be done to solve the issue, with Tetler stating that if noise is causing someone's quality of life to be disrupted, that would be investigated on those grounds. Cases are dealt with on an individual basis, he added.


Critchley said the noise bylaw has been enforced by the complainant being advised to contact police, particularly if it is late at night. An information package is given to an affected resident with a log the resident able to fill it out.

“If we lay charges, we have to have that evidence,” she said.


Councillor Linden Crain wondered how other municipalities measure noise and handle such matters, with Tetler stating some measure noise but most have bylaws similar to Amherstburg. He said bylaw enforcement is not an on demand service, noting they often follow up such complaints the next day.


Gibb stated his research said when a sound engineer came to council in 2019, “the sound engineer seemed to indicate the 70 decibel range is the upper limit of what would be acceptable level of sound in this situation.”Councillor Molly Allaire wanted to know if Tetler's department had received complaints from other events, including Open Air Weekends. Tetler said he was not aware of any complaints from either 2022 or 2023 from events and from the Legion.


“I do feel the Legion is going to work hard at maintaining and ensuring they work with residents when a complaint is made,” said Allaire.


Gibb voted to grant the exemption, but continued to urge co-operation between the parties.


“I am very, very concerned that if the noise levels are not acceptable, this is going to go past what Amherstburg town council can manage,” he said. “I hope and trust and pray that the Legion is going to take their neighbours concerns seriously and do everything in their power. I don't want the people of Amherstburg to lose out on what their Legion does for them, what the Legion does for their community and the pure enjoyment factor.”


Councillor Don McArthur declared a conflict of interest and didn't participate in the discussions or vote as his band – the River Rock Ramblers – play at the Legion. Mayor Michael Prue said he has had people say he should declare a conflict but said, even though he is a Legion member, he derives no financial benefit.


“There is no money involved whatsoever,” he said. “For the record, I don't have a conflict of interest.”

Noise bylaw exemption granted for Royal Canadian Legion Br. 157

By Ron Giofu

 

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