Council not sure how to handle loud noise complaints

Bashaw, Alberta
Written by Stu Salkeld

Bashaw town council will reexamine their land use bylaw (LUB) after a resident complained about a noisy business. The issue was discussed at the Sept. 14 regular meeting of council.

Town Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Theresa Fuller provided councillors with a letter of complaint from resident N.D. Bamber dated Aug. 26. In the letter Bamber stated, “Our home…is 550 feet from the noise source. There is the railway property, a row of trees and shrubs, house and garages blocking the noise. Even so on our deck the sound level is peaking at 91.6 decibels (Db) during unloading. The level in the middle of Railway Ave. is at 93.4 Db.

Occupational Health & Safety (OHS) limit for continual exposure is 85 Db without hearing protection,” stated Bamber.

Bamber stated he’s complained more than once about this business’ noise and added his research suggests the Town of Bashaw doesn’t have the proper bylaws in place to address industrial-level noise that’s this close to homes.

Fuller noted in her report the business in question complies with the public disturbance bylaw.

“Benchmark Commodities has been operational for several years,” stated Fuller’s report, noting the business previously used sledge hammers and now uses a skid steer vehicle.

“Several residents have placed complaints, the area bylaw officer has addressed them. However, based on the Public Disturbance Bylaw 767-2015 they look at the operational hours and compare them to quiet hours from the bylaw (10 p.m. to 7 a.m.) and Benchmark is compliant.”

Fuller then noted the general prohibition part of the bylaw prohibits “unreasonably loud” noise which “…annoys, disturbs” residents, but added a further section of the bylaw for industrial purposes seems to contradict the earlier section “…by providing permission to industrial operations as approved within the LUB.”

Fuller stated she’s been in regular contact with Benchmark Commodities which notified her they should be completed their noisy work by the end of August. To middle of September however, as of the meeting, it seemed that work was ongoing.

“Possible solutions (include) reduce timeframes for operations or require installation of sound barriers in order to continue their processing operations,” she added in her report.

Benchmark Commodities, according to their website, is a commercial transport business headquartered in Ponoka, Alta. but with a rail operation in Bashaw.

Fuller suggested changing the public disturbance bylaw to better mesh with the LUB’s rules about noise.

“In the interim it may be advisable to add additional features to our public disturbances bylaw,” she stated.

“Examples could be reference to the LUB regarding objectionable conditions and conditions around noise volume or compliance with other legislation,” added her report.

When asked if the business owner had any suggestions, Fuller responded the business stated they are approaching the end of the noisy work with the general manager estimating the end of September for a target date.

When asked what other avenues the town has to solve the problem if mitigation doesn’t work, Fuller answered there are enforcement options including a stop order and the CAO noted stop orders involve the court system.

Coun. Kyle McIntosh noted he was in the area when the work was going on. “It’s loud,” said McIntosh.

Coun. Bryan Gust stated he was in favour of revising the disturbances bylaw to address issues like this one.

Fuller responded that some parts of the disturbances bylaw could be removed and the town could rely entirely on the LUB rules on industrial noise but also noted Db levels didn’t need to be included because provincial law covers those issues.

Mayor Rob McDonald stated industrial operators should have less impact on their neighbours but also realized the town needed to work with their industrial residents too.

Councillors unanimously passed a resolution that town staff revise the public disturbances bylaw and bring it back to a future meeting.

Stu Salkeld
Local Journalism Initiative reporter
ECA Review

About the author

Stu Salkeld

Stu Salkeld, who has upwards of 28 years of experience in the Alberta community newspaper industry, is now covering councils and other news in the Stettler region and has experience working in the area as well.

He has joined the ECA Review as a Local Journalism Initiative Journalist.

Stu earned his two-year diploma in print journalism from SAIT in Calgary from 1993 to ’95 and was raised in Oyen, Alta., one of the communities within the ECA Review’s coverage area.