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.