Ottawa residents make noise for a quieter city

With the summer months just ahead, noise is becoming a major issue in the city. Concerned citizens appeared at city hall on April 24 to voice their support for and criticism of a new bylaw to help combat Ottawa’s noise problem.

Under the current bylaw those actually making the noise are fined, but a new bylaw would see landlords and leaseholders responsible for noise on their property. The rationale is that it is much simpler to charge these groups than picking out individual offenders.

“It is by far the largest problem for us,” Sandy Hill resident André Longtin told the meeting. Noisy students know that under the current bylaw, very little can be done to stop loud behavior, he said. “They yell the word, ‘bylaw!’ “ he said, impersonating the youthful rowdies. “ ’Bylaws, come and get us!’ ”

Randy Innes is finally moving out of Sandy Hill, partly because of late-night disturbances. He urged the city to go ahead with the bylaw, but said it is still not enough.

Common criticisms took aim at the proposed bylaw’s lack of enforcement of street noise, outside of residences. It is difficult to enforce bylaws when offenders migrate through town. Many advised staff to better communicate with universities to get students to tone it down. Still, the speakers voiced their support for a bylaw that will help bring down the decibel level in Ottawa and do it as soon as possible.

Sandy Hill isn’t the only neighbourhood that has noise complaints. In 2010, Coun. Diane Holmes’s Somerset Ward received the second highest number of noise complaints in the city, second only to troubled Sandy Hill, according to a city report.

“I would say there’s a sort of constant noise complaint level but it’s from various things,” Holmes said of the Centretown case in an interview before the meeting. “It could be noisy parties. It could be construction noise. It could be snow clearing at 5 a.m. noise. So it’s a full range of constant downtown kind of noise.”

Holmes urged those who attended the meeting to voice their opinions at another meeting in mid-May to make sure  the city follows their advice. “You have to be mouthy – polite but mouthy – just like you are tonight,” said Holmes, “And tonight was terrific.”

City staff will review comments from concerned citizens and report back to the community and protective services committee on May 17.