Greater Sudbury's seven noise bylaws and the 19 amendments attached to them were amalgamated into one Tuesday night.
The long overdue legislation stems from the creation of Greater Sudbury in 2001, which required harmonizing a myriad of bylaws from the seven former municipalities into a single law for the entire city.
The noise bylaw was drawn from similar rules on other cities, as well as through feedback from the public and city councillors.
“Written in a manner that is easy to understand and apply, the new by-law will honour council’s support for three key themes which include: standard prohibited times, consistent application of response based on source, and the use of both subjective and objective investigative techniques,” says a report attached to Tuesday's city council meeting agenda.
It covers most potential nuisance noises, with the exception of things like barking dogs and car noises, which is governed by other laws.
Bylaw manager Brendan Adair told councillors there were more than one noise complaint a day in 2017 – 381 in total – a big increase compared to the 280 received in 2016.
However, those stats include people who make repeated complaints, so the figures don't necessarily represent separate incidents.
While supporting the new rules, Ward 12 Coun. Joscelyne Landry-Altmann wasn't happy a copy of the new bylaw wasn't available for the public to review online.
“This report doesn't have a link,” Landry-Altmann said.
Adair said the final version of the bylaw is still being worked out between his department and the legal department to ensure the language is exactly right. But it will be available to people who want to see it.
Ward 5 Coun. Bob Kirwan said people will want to review the bylaw as soon as they learn it has been passed. While he understood why it wasn't attached to the report, he suggested bylaws like this -- which aren't time sensitive -- should be made available online before councillors approve it.
“Our residents should have a chance to look at this for a couple of weeks before we vote on it,” Kirwan said.
He also wondered how bylaw officers investigate complaints of a noise, when the noise is no longer being heard when they arrive.
“How do you determine if someone is guilty or not?” he asked.
Adair said they would interview people on site to try and determine what happened. And since most people have cellphones, there's often video or audio recordings of what took place.
“So we would look to understand what the complaint is and whether they have any evidence,” he said.
But bylaw officers don't normally lay charges the first time they receive a noise complaint. Usually they try education, first, and only move to legal proceedings for repeated or serious violations.
“Typically, residents are good in terms of not negatively impacting people around them,” Adair said.
But if the complaint does lead to charges, the person complaining would have to agree to testify in court, if there's no other evidence available showing guilt.