Proposed Toronto Noise Bylaw Changes: Postponed Indefinitely (or not!)

Issues Politics

Proposed Toronto Noise Bylaw Changes: Postponed Indefinitely (or not!)

Update March 31, 2016:
Despite the title of this post, and the content below – we’ve heard from other Residents Groups that another proposal will be put forward on May 17 with hopes that council will vote on the proposal on June 7, 2016. We are not aware what changes (if any) were made to the proposals noted below, but we will keep you informed as we hear more.

Some parts of Cabbagetown are very peaceful, and experience only low levels of background noise. Other parts, not so much… (

The city was seeking to update the bylaws regulating noise recently with many of the changes due to some outdated rules and topics such as separate rules for air conditioners manufactured prior to 1979 and oversight roles that no longer exist.

Proposed Chapter 591, Noise ( – .pdf)

A number of the proposals were not universally welcomed however, and finding the right balance between residents and developers/airports/entertainment venues etc. would have required some significant negotiation.

One of the more contentious proposed changes was a significant increase in the level of allowable noise (from 45 decibels to 85 decibels) and a proposal to extend the period during the day (and night) that the higher levels of noise would be allowed from the current mish-mash of times depending on day of week and type of noise to a uniform 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Many experts point out that decibels alone are not the only measurement to be considered because different kinds of noise have different kinds of impacts, and the volume is not the only measure.

For some context on the decibel levels proposed though:
42 decibels: New York City Limit
45 decibels: Ontario and (current) Toronto Limit
65 decibels: Regent Park Community Energy Centre measured at Nasmith Avenue
70 decibels: Vacuum Cleaner, Passenger Car driving at 104 km/h from 7.6 metres
80 decibels: Dishwasher, Freight Train at 15 metres, Milling Machine
85 decibels: Proposed Toronto Limit
90 decibels: Boeing 737 or DC-9 aircraft at one nautical mile (6080 ft) before landing (97 dB); power mower (96 dB); motorcycle at 25 ft (90 dB). Newspaper press (97 dB)

To be clear, special events such as concerts, and other sources such as construction and emergency vehicles require special exemptions and permits and some of the proposals about these types of noise-sources were not welcomed by many residents groups. The proposed increase above however was about day-to-day noise.

This article highlights many of the issues although it focuses mostly on the decibel level issue:
Proposed changes to noise bylaw has people sounding off: Hume

The meeting on February 17 that is referenced in the Star article was reportedly well-attended and many Toronto residents and groups spoke out against some of the specific changes. Councillor Josh Matlow, who is on the Municipal Licensing and Standards Committee wrote the following in a newsletter on March 8, 2016:

Proposed Noise By-Law Changes Postponed Indefinitely
City Staff have heard loud and clear from councillors, Residents’ Associations, and our neighbours that the proposed changes to the noise by-law were wrong and unhelpful. The new, and very high, decibel level limit threatened our right to peacefully enjoy our homes.

I am pleased that Staff have recognized their report was flawed. The report that was intended for the next meeting of the Licensing and Standards Committee has been pulled and we have not been told if, or even when, a new set of recommendations will be coming forward. I will be sure to update you if there is any further news on this issue.”

A number of residents groups including the Cabbagetown Residents Association have been communicating regularly on this topic and we will continue to do so in order to ensure you are informed, heard (ahem) and any advocacy that might be required.

If you have any thoughts on the issue, please do let us know in the comments.

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