Noise exemption granted

City Council approves temporary exemption for West Campus

The West Campus artificial turf field was at the heart of residents' complaints.
The West Campus artificial turf field was at the heart of residents' complaints.
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The unanimous passage of a temporary noise bylaw exemption for Queen’s at the July 15 city council meeting has received mixed reactions from local residents.

Queen’s filed an application for an exemption on June 20 and altered it after a public meeting on July 2. It asked to allow blowing whistles, playing or singing the national anthem and making public announcements at 93 sports games at Richardson Stadium and the West Campus turf field.

By-Law 2004-52, which the University was seeking an exemption to, prohibits noise from activities reaching off the premises of origin.

Queen’s had initially applied for a bylaw exemption in February, seeking a permanent exemption that would have allowed practices to run from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekdays and until 9 p.m. on weekends, along with 24 days where weekend practices could be extended to 11 p.m.

The University abruptly withdrew the request prior to a March 4 council meeting where it would have been voted on. At the time, the University had been criticized for not consulting with largely unhappy residents about its bylaw request.

This time, the University held public meetings to consult with residents, but criticism came again after Athletics and Recreation launched a Save Our Fields social media campaign on July 9. At City Council, councillors said they were unhappy with emails they had received from students as a result of the campaign, requesting their support.

Caroline Davis, vice-principal of finance and administration, later expressed regret for the “adversarial” process during a presentation alongside Director of Athletics Leslie Dal Cin and Dean of Student Affairs Ann Tierney, at Council.

Dal Cin was unavailable for comment by press time.

Two other delegations presented at Council. Donald Mitchell, a resident living near West Campus, asked for a requirement that all future West Campus construction plans be submitted to a planning committee for conscious oversight. Susan Reid and Thomas Moynihan of Stop Queen’s Noise, a group of residents against the exemption, urged Queen’s to have a more thoughtful attitude towards noise.

Reid, who works at Queen’s, said she was “not thrilled” that the noise exemption passed at Council.

“We’re waiting to see what Queen’s actually does with it because I think it was made fairly clear that council was expecting them to deal with the noise in general,” she said.

“So if they successfully manage to put good amelioration and good mitigation, then we’ll go forward from here.”

She said the Save Our Fields campaign put forward red herrings in the form of concerns about Richardson Stadium and blowing whistles.

The campaign had posited that Queen’s might have to forfeit football games if the exemption didn’t pass at Council and allow referees to blow whistles at Richardson Stadium.

“I think it’s an excellent tactic by the Queen’s Athletics side to introduce that, but it’s always been about the artificial turf field and the fact that there are no walls, and nothing to contain the noise that’s generated on that field,” she said.

Reid said that residents were hoping for Queen’s to address its sound system in the redesign.

“In the 1970s, technology was just put in something really big and blast it out horizontally so people at the Kingston Centre can hear who scores.

But nowadays, technology is much, much better,” she said.

“We’re hoping that they’ll really take the opportunity to do a really good design job as they move forward.”

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