The City of Mississauga has been working on updating its current Noise By-Laws which have been in effect since 1971. The By-Laws, 360-79 and 785-80, were designed to address the needs and reality of a rural and sleepy suburban population. Close to five decades later, the City of Mississauga has undergone significant growth and development. The population has soared from about 175,000 in the early 70s to an estimated 750,000 in 2020.
Looking forward, Mississauga’s Downtown Core Local Area Plan has recently approved the creation of a newly expanded downtown core through the redevelopment of lands around Square One which cover 20.5 hectares. The city aims to achieve a gross density of 300 to 400 residents per hectare across the downtown area by 2031. The update to the noise by-laws currently being considered is meant to reflect the dense urban population and related soundscape of Mississauga today – and tomorrow.
Starting in January 2020, the City set up a review program for the noise control by-laws, which has conducted a series of community consultation sessions to understand the needs and concerns of various stakeholders and residents. While nothing has yet been finalized, the update will bring significant changes to the current noise by-laws and could include changes to the noise complaint process as well as mandate new operating restrictions on commercial/institutional activities that emit noise.
What can you expect from the Update?
HGC Engineering has reviewed the changes that are being considered and before we go into detail, here is a brief summary of what the changes could mean for developers, property managers and business owners if they are implemented:
- The possibility of using quantitative decibel limits could mean that businesses, such as outdoor restaurant patios with amplified sound systems, could still operate even if sounds are audible at nearby noise sensitive receptors as long as the sound levels fall within the decibel limits.
- Quantitative limits could also act as a double-edged sword, as noises that were previously permissible due to the absence of any complaints could now violate the by-laws if they are shown to exceed the limits.
- Amendments to the types of activities and noises prohibited by the by-laws could result in more comprehensive lists of prohibited noise-generating activities.
Current Noise By-Laws
Currently, there are two separate by-laws. The first is the Noise Control By-Law (360-79), which prohibits various noisy activities, such as construction and vehicle idling, either during certain specified periods of the day, or at all times. The other is the Nuisance Type Noise By-Law (785-80) which is a general prohibition of “unusual noises”, i.e. sounds from audio visual equipment, motor operations, and shouting on public streets. The existing By-Laws stipulate that certain activities are prohibited if they are found to be “clearly audible at a point of reception” or “likely to disturb the inhabitants”. These qualitative criteria can result in subjectivity when it comes to determining whether certain sounds are clearly audible or disruptive. Under current by-law enforcement procedures, the complainant is required to keep a log of the noise over three to four weeks if a warning to the party causing the complaint does not resolve the problem, and further action will take place at the Ontario Court of Justice.
Quantitative vs Qualitative Noise Limits
A possible approach that the City is considering is the implementation of decibel-based sound level limits for certain activities. Similar restrictions can be found in the City of Toronto noise by-law, which was recently updated in 2019 (see our blog article here on the Toronto by-law update). A decibel-based limit could remove much of the subjectivity with the current by-laws. As a consequence of a quantitative approach, sounds that would otherwise be prohibited under the current by-Laws could become permissible as long as they fall within the set decibel criteria.
Changing with the Times
Other possible changes could include amendments to the list of prohibited activities or the time periods during which they are prohibited. As noted earlier, over the last 5 decades, Mississauga has transformed into a much more populated and denser urban community. The types of sound disturbances that affect residents’ quality of life today are different from what they were in 1971. New prohibitions may be added for additional activities, such as those related to entertainment, while certain anachronistic activities listed in the 1971 By-Laws, such as hooting and ringing of gongs, could be under review due to their seeming irrelevancy in modern times.
Interestingly, in keeping with the times and the changing cultural dynamic of the City, Mississauga council recently voted to waive the current noise bylaws temporarily during the COVID-19 pandemic to allow mosques to send out calls to prayer during Ramadan. In the exemption period, Muslim places of worship could broadcast one call to prayer in the evening.
Since the public consultation period in January 2020, the City of Mississauga has not released any official statements regarding their progress. The COVID-19 Pandemic may further delay this process.
HGC Engineering will monitor the situation and provide updates via our blog posts if and when changes to the by-laws are further refined or finalized.