All quiet on West

Queen’s goes silent on noise exemption

An athlete practices on the field near Richardson Stadium.
An athlete practices on the field near Richardson Stadium.

In an unexpected move, Queen’s withdrew its application for a permanent exemption to the City’s noise control by-law.

Queen’s had applied for an exemption for the sports fields on West Campus, including Richardson Stadium. The exemption would have allowed practices to run from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekdays and until 9 p.m. on weekends, with 24 days set aside to extend weekend practice to 11 p.m.

The current by-law “prohibits noise from whistles and amplified sound at all times and noise from yelling, shouting, hooting, whistling, singing or the playing of musical instruments,” according to a report on the application to City Council.

The application for exemption was met with protest from residents in the surrounding neighbourhood.

Over 100 residents have expressed their objections in a petition circulated among the neighbourhood. Thirty-one residents expressed support for the exemption.

The petition was delivered to Council on Tuesday.

Council was expected to discuss and vote on the application, but before the meeting began, Mayor Mark Gerretsen informed the people gathered in the Council Room that the application had been withdrawn.

Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) Alan Harrison requested the withdrawal in a letter to Council, stating that Queen’s needed more time to balance the concerns of residents with the needs of athletics groups using the fields.

“The University modified its original application based on comments from local residents, but we want to ensure that we are being as responsive as possible to the concerns of community members, as well as the needs of our user groups,” Harrison said in a press release issued by the University following Council

Susan Reid, one of the residents protesting the noise exemption, had intended to make a presentation outlining the reasons that Queen’s should not receive the exemption.

“I’m sure this is a strategic move by Queen’s, because they obviously felt that their chances of them actually making that big a grab tonight was not going to happen,” she said.

In the speech that she was unable to present to Council, Reid wrote, “This exemption will remove all legal protection for city residents from excessive noise during virtually all waking hours, and hands the authority for compliance and regulation to the very administrators whose management decisions have created the current situation.”

Reid referred to Queen’s as a “property developer … whose business happens to be education” and argued that Queen’s hadn’t done enough to limit noise before seeking an exemption.

“Queen’s identified a number of strategies likely to help reduce their noise, and not one of them requires a noise exemption to be implemented.”

Reid noted that the residents’ problem was not with the students using the field, but with the administration that put them there.

“We don’t have a problem with the students or the athletes per se … they have to be aware they are in a residential neighborhood. Behave accordingly,” she said.

Derek Wiggan, the defensive lineman for the Gaels football team, supported the idea of an exemption, citing the difficult time management involved in juggling classes and practice.

“Practice time for teams [is] key to their success. Since we are student athletes, classes occupy a student-athlete’s time during the day,” Wiggan, ArtSci ’14, said.

“Practices that stretch to 11 p.m. are sometimes the only option available to teams if they want an effective practice.”

He cautioned that a time limit on practices for one team could affect those of another.

“If a practice cut-off was to occur, that would cause the practices of the other teams that use the fields earlier in the day to maybe cut down their time on the field, negatively affecting them. So there is a ripple effect from this by-law,” Wiggan said.

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