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Noise bylaw raises a raucous debate at PEC council

By Jennifer Bowman

There was a lot of noise from the public gallery at Prince Edward County Council at Shire Hall Tuesday night, as residents and business owners squared off with politicians over proposed changes to the  noise bylaw.

Following a lively and emotional debate  councillors killed the changes and decided not to amend the Noise/Nuisance bylaw.

In a recorded vote, 11 councillors against and five in favour,  politicians kept the bylaw’s 2 a.m. noise limit in non-residential areas rather than change it to midnight. In a separate vote, 14 councillors voted against lowering the noise level restriction from 80 decibels, which is equivalent to a car wash from 20 feet away, to 60 decibels, equivalent to an electric typewriter from ten feet away.

The request for a change in the bylaw came before council when Dave Ashton, who owns a local cottage resort, complained that a wedding facility, Fields on West Lake, was keeping  him and his wife up at night.

During council, Mark Henry, co-owner of Field on West Lake, gave council a formal, written report on how much noise  his business generates.

The report said the facility doesn’t go over 60 decibels.  It’s never been about the noise, he told council during his presentation.

The proposed changes were controversial. Some in the audience voiced their frustration with the noise, arguing for change; while others  threw their support for  the status quo. Still other presenters and members of the audience took the opportunity to express their support for the business community.

Many young people rose from the public gallery to speak to council, most of them defending the bylaw and Field on West Lake’s wedding business.

Some politicians took exception to suggestions council did not support local entrepreneurs. Councillor Dianne O’Brien  said she doesn’t feel comfortable with all those accusations thrown around the room.

Councillor Kevin Gale was upset with how the issue was dealt with by council.

It’s shameful this topic has been handled like this, he said. Council was lucky children were not in the gallery to see how adults act.

After the audience voiced their opinions, Councillor Terry Shortt spoke to everyone.

“This is council, not a courtroom. We have to create a bylaw that’s good for the municipality, not one area,” said Shortt.

“We don’t have a problem with the bylaw, we have a problem with the area,” he said.

Councillor Heather Campbell took matters into her own hands after the noise bylaw was brought before council.

She wanted to see for herself what the noise complaint was,  so Campbell asked people to call her if they have a noise complaint. No one called with a complaint, she said. Based on this, Campbell said she’s not prepared to change the bylaw because there aren’t  enough documented complaints. For it to be changed, more people need to come forward, she demanded.

Councillor Bev Campbell says they haven’t given this bylaw a chance.

Time is needed to see how the bylaw is going to work, she said. She is asking for a full year to pass with the current bylaw under their belts before they try to change it.

Henry said he was thrilled by the result.

“We’re just hoping that we don’t have to go back to the community or council for a long time. We’d like to quietly carry on with our business and do what we do best, and that is weddings.”

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