No. 1 noise rule: be aware
Outdoor activities can impact neighbours
Saturday, May 31, 2014 06:00 am
Summer weather can mean a changed perception in noise levels around St. Albert.
“The real warm weather, when people tend to open the window of their residences, there’ll be a peak of complaints starting about this time of year for both motor vehicle traffic going by and some of the regular spring maintenance that’s done,” said Stu Fraser, the peace officer program supervisor for the City of St. Albert.
Noise complaints don’t necessarily spike in summer, but the types of complaints will shift, he said.
While winter time often brings complaints about noise from snow removal operations or vehicle idling, the summer is dominated by construction-related complaints, along with the aforementioned motor vehicle and city spring maintenance noise issues, he said.
The other main trigger for noise complaints tends to be music or bands, Fraser said, which is not tied to a particular time of year.
A summer-season complaint that occasionally arises is noise from lawn maintenance.
“It’s pretty standard that about five per cent of our noise complaints would be to do with lawn maintenance,” Fraser said.
Often during the summer, people head out to enjoy their yards into the late evening.
“The biggest thing that people don’t understand is that, in quiet hours, sitting outside in your backyards with friends … it’s quite easy to affect your neighbours and you might not even perceive that your noise level has gone up,” Fraser said. “It’s a matter of increasing people’s awareness.”
Fraser finds that the start and end of the city’s “quiet hours” are when conflict happens.
Fines for a first breach of the bylaw – which encompasses more than just the quiet hours – start at $250. Further offences can be taken to court, where fines can range up to $10,000, Fraser said.
For instance, Fraser notes there’s a general prohibition that allows municipal bylaw officers to consider the situation’s factors, such as time of day or location.
However, enforcement often starts with education.
“Most people respect the warning they get,” Fraser said.
Even in cases where there’s a permit to operate machinery during quiet hours for construction, if there are complaints, sometimes the terms of that permit will be re-examined, Fraser said.
He noted that sometimes contractors are from outside St. Albert and might not be familiar with the rules – but a visit from a bylaw officer can address the issue.
“Even if we take the education before enforcement approach, the sooner we know about an issue the sooner we can work towards resolving it,” he said.
People with a concern should call 780-458-7700 to inquire, Fraser said.
The city does track complaints to track if people have had previous offences.
The RCMP will also respond to noise issues when the municipal officers aren’t on shift.
“If municipal enforcement officers aren’t on the road, which is generally about the time that house parties are taking off, the mounted police will attend the call,” Fraser said, noting the police have a few ways they can address the concern, ranging from resolving it without any tickets or charges to sometimes using mischief criminal charges.
There are some exemptions for city workers and school and church bells, he noted.