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What to Expect from Updates to Mississauga Noise By-Laws Now Under Consideration

Coming updated to city of Mississauga Noise By-laws

On July 8, 2020 the noise by-law review committee submitted their official findings in a report to the Mayor and Mississauga’s city council. HGC Engineering has updated this previously posted blog feature to reflect the new details of the report.

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 noise control by-law review program, which has conducted a series of community consultation sessions to review the needs and concerns of various stakeholders and residents. This all culminated in a report presented on July 8, 2020 to the Mayor and Mississauga city council for review. The report proposes a two-phased approach to implementation: Phase 1 involves recommendations that can be implemented with little to no financial costs to the City, and Phase 2 details proposals that are anticipated to have implementation associated costs. While these recommendations have yet to be enshrined into legislation, when finally mandated, the update will bring significant changes to current noise By-Laws and could include changes to the noise complaint process as well as new operating restrictions on commercial/institutional activities that emit noise.

What can you expect from the Mississauga Noise By-Law Update?

HGC Engineering has reviewed the recommendations set out in the by-law review report 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:

  • Consolidation of the two by-laws by repealing By-Law 785-80 (Noise Nuisance By-Law) and amending By-Law 360-79 (Noise Control By-Law).
  • Introduction of decibel limits for amplified sounds and stationary motor vehicles means 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 a lack of perceived audibility could now violate the By-Laws if they are shown to be over the limits.
  • Amendments to the types of activities and noises prohibited by the By-Laws, as well as their permitted periods, could result in more comprehensive lists of prohibited noise-generating activities with different windows of operation.

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 audiovisual 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.

Report Findings

A total of 25 recommendations, ranging from enforcement procedure to By-Law amendments, were identified in the Report submitted to the City Council. In summary, these recommendations address the most commonly voiced concerns during community feedback sessions, surveys conducted by the City, and past complaints. The proposed recommendations are categorized into four distinct areas summarized below:

  1. By-Law Changes
    In 2019, complaints for amplified sounds were the most common noise complaints received by the City, followed by animal and construction-related noises. To address these concerns, the City proposes to implement quantitative decibel limits for amplified sounds and to revise the permitted hours for animal and construction-related noise. Other minor amendments are also proposed, such as modifications to permitted hours for existing prohibited activities, activity definitions, and new activities such as sports-related noise.
  2. Enforcement Changes
    A new priority response model is recommended to provide on-site investigative services as part of the complaint process, as well as plans to expand the staff resources to expand service levels.
  3. Noise Exemption Permits
    More power is proposed to be delegated to the sub-divisions within the City to allow for more streamlined noise exemption permit applications.
  4. Awareness and Development
    Public awareness activities are proposed to better inform the public of the by-law Update and procedures.

While some changes can be implemented without much financial impact to the City, such as the minor revisions to the by-law, the proposed addition of decibel limits and expanding the by-law officer staff would require significant financial investment. The report has yet to identify numerical targets for the decibel limits and the detailed procedure of how the decibel limits will be enforced. It is likely that the City will equip their own staff with sound level meters to enforce these limits, but such plans are postponed until later as part of the Phase 2 of the by-law Update.

New Objective Noise Thresholds and Investigative Processes

The report identified a common desire from the community to introduce more objectivity into the noise by-laws, such as objective thresholds and investigative processes. As part of the proposed Phase 2 implementation of the Update, decibel limits will be introduced for amplified sounds and stationary motor vehicles. Similar By-Law items can be found in the City of Toronto’s Noise By-Laws, which were recently updated in 2019 (see our blog article on the Toronto By-Laws update here).  A decibel-based limit could remove much of the subjectivity with the current By-Laws, and could forgo the need to testify the noise’s intrusiveness via subjective means to By-Law officers and Court, such as through journaled logs and Court testimonials. 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

As noted earlier, Mississauga over the last 5 decades, has transformed into a much more populated and urban community. The types of sound disturbances that affect city residents’ quality of life today are vastly different from what they were in 1971. New types of noise-producing prohibited activities and updated definitions, such as sports-related noise, are proposed to be added, while certain anachronistic activities and redundant categories listed in the 1971 by-laws, such as hooting and ringing of gongs, are proposed for removal due to their decreasing relevancy 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 broadcast calls to prayer during Ramadan. During the exemption period, Muslim places of worship could send out a call to prayer in the evening.

Looking Forward

No further action is expected until The City completes their review of the report recommendations. What is certain for now is, due to the financial impact of COVID-19 and current financial restraints, only Phase 1 items are being recommended for implementation. The review committee will report back to the City Council at a later date on the details of Phase 2 items. The COVID-19 Pandemic may further delay this process.

HGC Engineering will closely monitor the situation and provide updates to our blog posts if and when Noise By-Law changes are further refined or finalized.