City Council approves noise bylaw exemption

Councillors grant Queen's temporary West Campus exemption, amended to expire next June

Caroline Davis presents a slide showing the differences between Queen's's first and second noise bylaw exemption applications.
Caroline Davis presents a slide showing the differences between Queen's's first and second noise bylaw exemption applications.
Queen's Athletics supporters wait for the council meeting to start.
Queen's Athletics supporters wait for the council meeting to start.

The University’s application for a temporary noise bylaw exemption for Richardson Stadium and West Campus turf fields passed unanimously at City Council Tuesday evening, albeit with a few conditions.

The application, which was filed by the University to the City on June 20 and altered after a public meeting on July 2, sought to allow blowing whistles, playing or singing the national anthem and making public announcements at sports games, as per By-Law 2004-52, which prohibits noise from activities reaching off the premises of origin.

The application also sought to allow amplified music to be played at Richardson during football games.

The exemption, which passed 12-0 at Council, will take effect for 93 games hosted on the West Campus turf field and 15 at Richardson Stadium, serving until June 30, 2015.

Two amendments to the original exemption application passed, limiting the exemption period to June 2015 rather than December and ordering City staff to carry out their own noise study on West Campus.

A third amendment, which called for a public meeting at the end of the noise study, failed.

The decision follows Athletics and Recreation’s Save Our Fields campaign on Facebook and Twitter, which saw over 400 people join a Facebook event calling for public support for Tuesday’s meeting.

Students and alumni took to Twitter and email prior to Council to lobby Mayor Mark Gerretsen and city councillors to support the exemption, using the hashtag “#SaveOurFields.”

In an unsigned post on their website, Athletics and Recreation claimed as part of its campaign that without an exemption for whistles and amplified noise, the fields would be “unusable for game-related activities” and the University would have to find new homes for teams affected by the bylaw.

Leading up to Tuesday’s meeting, city councillors expressed distaste with emails they had received from students, claiming students were misled by Athletics and Recreation into believing the University would have to cease hosting football games if the exemption failed.

“It’s all been Queen’s University trying to tweak it so that it will pass,” Williamsville District councillor Jim Neill told the Journal prior to Tuesday’s meeting.

Sydenham District councillor Bill Glover criticized the campaign last week, calling it “disgusting".

“I understand Leslie Dal Cin did [the campaign] as an attack against [Portsmouth] councillor [Liz] Schell,” Glover said.

Schell originally criticized the University for not having paid due attention to residents’ concerns regarding noise in the area, prior to Tuesday’s vote.

Dal Cin, Queen's director of athletics and recreation, denied the allegation to the Journal after the vote, adding that she was disappointed in the idea that Athletics would be labelled unprofessional.

“That’s a standard that would be not where we are or where we consider ourselves,” she said.

At Tuesday’s City Council, three delegations – one from the University, the community and the city – spoke to the issue, citing concerns for and against supporting the bylaw exemption.

Caroline Davis, the University’s vice-principal of finance and administration, presented alongside Dal Cin and Dean of Student Affairs Ann Tierney, and said she regretted that the process had become “quite adversarial.”

“We regret that in recent days, some supporters of Queen’s have sent emails and tweets that were rude and disrespectful to councillors,” Davis said.

She said that city staff had put forward a reasonable, balanced recommendation, and this incarnation of the exemption application struck a balance between concerns expressed by residents and the need to keep fields operational for athletes.

Donald Mitchell, a resident near West Campus, later presented, asking that council require all future West Campus construction to submit plans to the staff of a planning committee for conscious oversight.

Thomas Moynihan and Susan Reid of Stop Queen’s Noise – a group of residents opposed to the exemption - urged the University to take a more thoughtful, moderate attitude towards noise.

Councillors Rick Downes, Jim Neill, Rob Hutchison and Bryan Paterson openly supported the exemption. Downes and Neill later stated their future support was conditional on Queen’s resolving its issues with the community.

Mayor Mark Gerretsen later said he won’t grant another exemption in the event he remains in office next June.

“The idea is for Queen’s … to figure out mitigative measures and implement them,” he said.

“That was the whole point of the compromise - to open a window so activities could continue while research is being done.”

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