New Noise By-law for Toronto


City Council adopted a new Noise By-law with amendments at the April 16 and 17 meeting, 2019.

YQNA has been involved with the by-law review since its inception in 2015. Countless hours have been spent in meetings of the Working Group, in deputing at Committees, and in trying to understand the complexities of sound, how it travels and how it is measured. YQNA joined forces with the Toronto Noise Coalition (TNC), which has members from across the City.

The new by-law is quite short. It has some useful definitions, and regulates 8 kinds of noise, from amplified sound to animals to leaf blowers. It has introduced the use of approved noise meters to be used by MLS staff in checking on sound levels using both the dB(A) and dB(C) scales. While the sound level limits are now more reasonable, the measurement depends on Leq, which is a kind of averaging or smoothing, over a ten minute period, which does not work at all for music. Amplified sound is to be measured at a “point of reception” outdoors or indoors, while noise from a motorcycle is to be measured 50 cm from the tailpipe. Other kinds of noise are just prohibited during certain times, generally from 7 pm to 7 am on week nights and before 9 am on weekends and holidays. Government work, which includes work by the TTC, the Province, the Federal Government and the City, is exempt from the by-law.

The current (old) noise by-law begins with a General Prohibition, which states “No person shall make, cause or permit noise or vibration, at any time, which is likely to disturb the quiet, peace, rest, enjoyment, comfort or convenience of the inhabitants of the City.”

This is removed. It is replaced by “No person shall make, cause or permit noise, at any time, that is unreasonable noise and persistent noise”, where the underlined noises are defined terms. This sounds fine until we read the second part, which states that this provision does not apply to any of the 8 kinds of sound which are dealt with elsewhere in the by-law. Vibration is no longer mentioned, and is only captured somewhat by the dB(C) measurements for amplified sound. This means that activities such as construction or leaf blowing can be noisy during the work day.

The members of TNC are understandably disappointed that after so much work their comments, concerns and suggestions seem to have fallen on deaf ears. The loss of the General Prohibition is of particular concern, because this rule has been used successfully in the past to prosecute noisy clubs and tour boats. A small victory has been the lowering of the dB thresholds from the levels staff had started out with in 2016, but the requirement for by-law officers to actually take measurements at your home is unworkable. By the time they can attend, unless the noise source is a regular, predictable event like a Saturday night dance, the party or concert will long be over.

Rebel Nightclub Decision

Noise travels fast and wide on the Waterfront from the club site. (Photo: Jim Panou)
Noise travels fast and wide on the Waterfront from the club site. (Photo: Jim Panou)

The Licence Appeal Board last week released its decision in the dispute about a new liquor licence at Rebel nightclub and its outdoor patio Cabana Pool Bar. It’s mostly a win for local residents and the Islanders. I represented YQNA.

The nightclub already has a liquor licence allowing a lot of people and amplified music outside on the patio until 11 pm Thursday through Saturday nights. It sought a new liquor license allowing a lot more people inside and outside (the application was originally for 15,000 people altogether), and longer hours and fewer restrictions on amplified music outdoors. Residents objected mainly to the amplified music and the huge numbers. The nightclub would then totally dominate the harbour and eastern waterfront.

At the 17-day hearing, the nightclub pared back its request for more patrons somewhat. The evidence was mostly about music disturbances on the Island. The upshot was mostly good news: the Tribunal ruled no amplified music on the patio at all (a big change from before), no increase in numbers on the patio, but some increase in the number of patrons inside was allowed.

An article in the Toronto Star (Aug. 26, 2018) is focused on police concerns about safety around the club, which leaves large crowds late at night in an area that is without transit.

Weirdly, the nightclub still has the old licence; it seems it can choose between the one it already has and the new one ordered by the Tribunal, which had no jurisdiction to set aside the old licence. The wording of the statute, the Liquor Licence Act, leaves something to be desired.

The nightclub has appealed to the Divisional Court.

Edward Hore
Former co-chair and solicitor for YQNA

Say NO to the World’s Biggest Nightclub

Noise travels fast and wide on the Waterfront from the club site. (Photo: Jim Panou)
Noise travels fast and wide on the Waterfront from the club site. (Photo: Jim Panou)

YQNA is at the center of a city-wide protest against a Waterfront nightclub that would be the largest in the world with a capacity of more than 15,000 people. That is if the Powerhouse Corporation is granted a liquor license from the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO). Lengthy upcoming hearings at the AGCO Tribunal start February 9 and are open to the public.

Powerhouse Corporation’s Licence Appeal Hearing starts February 9, 2017 at 9:30 am in the Tribunal’s Offices in Toronto at 20 Dundas St. W., 5th floor. Hearings will continue if necessary on February 10, 13 and 14 and March 20, 21, 30 and 31, 2017.

The co-chair of YQNA, Edward Hore, is working pro bono as our lawyer and is submitting written protests to this outsized club — from city councillors, neighbourhood associations, condo boards, Waterfront developers and businesses. Residents on the Islands near the site are represented by lawyer Robert Tanner. Ken Greenberg, prominent urban designer of the Port Lands, says this monster club is the biggest threat to the Waterfront so far, exceeding others that residents fought off, such as a jet airport, casinos, box retail stores and a Ferris Wheel.

This club application — which would top the world’s largest nightclub in Spain for 10,000 people — almost went unnoticed by the public. The club is currently called Rebel and is where the former Docks club lost its liquor license years ago in a similar imbroglio with the public. When YQNA learned the application details through councillor Pam McConnell from club owner Charles Khaboult of the Powerhouse Corporation, we started a successful campaign to engage the media. CBC TV and Radio gave extensive coverage as did The Globe and Mail. People were shocked at this news, to say the least. This mega-club would put Waterfront renewal plans for the Port Lands at risk and cause serious social, traffic and noise issues.

The enormous scale of this nightclub is not just a local Waterfront issue. It concerns millions of people who use the Waterfront as their “cottage country.” The Waterfront is also home to a growing mixed-use community that comprises North America’s largest urban renewal project under the auspices of Waterfront Toronto. To protect our precious Waterfront, you can sign this petition from the newly formed Waterfront For All  — and spread the word to your friends!

Noise Alert!

The City is trying to change the Noise Bylaw — and not in our favour. The changes would allow noise inside our homes from an outside source (amplified music, construction, clubs , etc.) at 85 dBA from 7 am to 11 pm. That is equal to a snow blower running all day! New York City’s dBA limit for homes is 42 dBA.

To make matters worse, residents can only contest excessive noise by having an inspector from Municipal Licences and Standards (MLS) visit their homes to measure the sound levels. The MLS’s few noise inspectors failed to monitor outdoor noise levels in the past, so how could this new system work for us?

York Quay Neighbourhood Association (YQNA) studied the proposed changes and strongly objects. On the  Waterfront, we have more than a dozen outdoor concert venues with hundreds of live music events a year.  We also have party boats on the lake with amplified music, and airplanes overhead from the island airport.

We urge you strongly to speak up. Insist on keeping the old bylaw, which protects residents from being disturbed in their own homes at all hours, and allows them to present evidence of disturbance. Once these general prohibitions are gone, your health and privacy could be on the line. Provincial legislation limits the noise at point of reception — such as your home — to 50 dBA. The City now asks us to live with 85 dBA, which is 12 times the 50 dBA on a calibrated scale!

YQNA is urging residents, councillors and neighbourhood associations to object to this change. We have until Feb. 15, 2016 to add our voices. The City document is here.

You may use this content in your protest:

  • I, (or neighbourhood association or other civic group) strongly protest the proposed changes to the City Noise Bylaw. I request that the General Prohibition (591-1), which protects residents from being disturbed in their own homes at all hours, and allows them to present evidence of disturbance, remain unchanged.
  • No multiple noise exemptions can be granted to concert venues, but must be granted one by one and be approved by the local city councillor.

Emails or letters should go to:

Jessica Walters
Jwalter2@toronto.ca
Senior Policy and Research Officer
Municipal Licensing and Standards
City Hall, 100 Queen Street West, West Tower, 16th Floor
Toronto, ON, M5H 2N2

Please share this information with as many as possible.

You can speak to this issue at the next public meeting by Municipal Licensing and Standards on February 17th, 2016 from 6:30pm to 8:30pm at City Hall, 2nd Floor, Committee Room 1.