Queen’s hopes to extend noise exemption

Last summer’s temporary noise exemption for West Campus fields could be extended by another year

The current Richardson Stadium in summer 2014.
The current Richardson Stadium in summer 2014.
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Queen’s has begun the process of getting a year-long extension to a temporary noise exemption granted last summer, while residents near West Campus are still concerned with the noise levels coming from the three sports fields.

The noise has been the subject of debate since the Miklas-McCarney Field was opened for use in 2011. The artificial turf field is at the corner of Johnson St. and Sir John A. MacDonald Blvd., and backs up onto residential areas.

Last June, City Council granted a one-year limited noise exemption for athletic activities on the field. Queen’s will go back to Council in May to ask for an extension with the same conditions. The City’s planning committee will consult with representatives of the University and local residents as part of a report that will be brought to Council to vote on.

As part of its first temporary request made last year, Athletics set up a website and hotline to receive feedback from the neighbourhood. They've since limited their use of amplified sound, as well as having changed their sound system to focus sound to the interior of the stadium, and introducing lower decibel whistles in order to compromise with residents, according to Leslie Dal Cin, the director of Queen’s Athletics and Recreation.

One of the complications, according to Dal Cin, is with the grass fields, which need to be allowed to grow during the spring. This forces most practices to run late on the turf fields.

Queen’s also has two turf fields on main campus. Dal Cin said at times, during the peak of outdoor seasons, four of the five fields could be in use at once to accommodate a wide range of activities.

Dal Cin said the fields are not only important for varsity sports, but for offering intramurals to students. Often, the fields are scheduled for use until 11 p.m., with approximately 500 varsity athletes and 2,500 intramural athletes using the fields in a season. She said that taking two hours off of scheduling could reduce the ability to offer all these programs.

Though Richardson Stadium has been located at its West Campus site for more than 40 years, the new turf field sparked residents’ concerns with frequent noise.

Dal Cin said she recognizes that residents aren’t proposing to get rid of the athletics program on West Campus, and that she’s been working on different strategies to accommodate both students and residents.

“What we’ve really tried to do is spread the activity as much as we can across all those fields, addressing people’s concerns, while also being able to continue to offer programs in a way that best meets the needs of our students and in the summer our community groups,” she said.

Part of the Kingston noise by-law disallows the use of whistles altogether, which she said is a concern for Athletics because of the frequent need for them.

Dal Cin said with the new request, there’s been discussion with the City to amend some parts of the by-laws.

Paige Agnew, director of planning, building and licensing services for the City of Kingston, denied being aware of any possible changes being made.

She said Queen’s will have to go through the same application process as with the previous exemption, clearly stating how they plan to limit noise, what times they will need the exemption and for what reasons.

Don Chipley, a local resident, said he was all right with the occasional games at Richardson, but this August there were 11 straight days where there was noise from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. — sometimes going until 11 p.m.

“I just think that [the University] is not really so much interested in the residents of the area, but more interested in getting what they want because they don’t seem to show a lot of concern for the residents,” said Chipley, who is technical staff in the Department of Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering.

Chipley said he’s complained multiple times to the Queen’s Hotline that was made available for feedback, but hasn’t seen much response.

The residents in the area want to make it clear that they aren’t proposing to get rid of athletic activities, added Chipley — they just believe “maybe it should be in a more appropriate place”.

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