A new noise reduction bylaw is heading to council for approval, thanks to a city committee meeting Thursday. The Community Planning and Economic Development Standing Committee’s motion, if approved by council, will only allow construction noise from 7am to 8pm weekdays, 8am to 7pm on Saturdays, 9am-7pm Sundays. Rock breaking would only be allowed Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm.
There are some exemptions for time-sensitive work, like concrete pouring or to ensure access to specialized equipment or labour. As well as some carve outs to allow commercial areas to have construction at night instead of during the daytime window where the businesses are open.
The proposed hours aren’t much different from the current hours. The only timing difference is that right now construction—including rock breaking—is allowed from 7am to 9:30pm on weekdays, where the new bylaw seeks to shut construction sites down an hour and a half earlier, and narrow the window for rock breaking. Weekend times stay the same, although excluding rock breaking entirely from weekends would be a change.
Councillor Trish Purdy spoke up against the motion in her unofficial role as the business interest lobby, saying that this would be very bad for the construction industry. Since the construction industry sent two whole emails about changing hours, its request for a public hearing should be granted. City staff said the construction industry was heavily consulted in these proposed changes.
Councillor Kathryn Morse argued for a public hearing because some of the people in her district are getting absolutely hammered by noise from the development at 210 Willet Street. They would want tighter restrictions.
Councillor Tim Outhit argued that a public hearing would end up having the opposite result from what Morse is thinking. The construction industry will turn up for a public hearing crying woe is me, while the people who should be at the hearing probably won’t be there because they haven't got enough sleep because of construction.
Purdy then doubled down on her attempt to allow the construction industry to continue to lobby council with a public hearing.
Outhit patiently explained to Purdy that public consultation is important, yes, but that’s what the report is. Outhit then said that HRM residents tell council that developers run the city.
The unspoken part of Outhit’s argument is that allowing the construction industry to prove it does indeed run the city, though Purdy’s advocacy, would not be in council’s best interest.
The motion is leaving committee and going to council with five votes for the reducing the construction noise hours, and Purdy’s one vote against, on behalf of the construction industry.
Councillor Patty Cuttle added on a motion to see if there could be seasonal differences to this bylaw. That will come back to the CPED standing committee at a future meeting.
In other committee business, the Our HRM Alliance was there today, presenting about the bylaw challenges the city faces when trying to implement its environmental policies. Something The Coast got slightly wrong in our initial reporting on this issue—when OHRMA was at the Environment and Sustainability Standing Committee—is that the alliance is not primarily focused on preventing climate change. Instead it’s promoting complete communities and preserving Halifax's green network. And the problems the alliance points out are not only specific to climate plans, but all plans that mention environmental protection. Implementation of the Halifax Green Network Plan, is its number one priority. The short version of the Alliance’s presentation is that development plans are enshrined in bylaws, environmental plans are not. Therefore development wins every time because there is no legal framework to protect the city’s natural assets.
CPED also got a pitch from the Northern Suburban Area Community Turf to put a turf pad at Lockview High School. It would cost $4.26 million, and turf reps are asking for $852,000 from the city to help. The province and the feds would kick in $1.49 million and $1.70 million each. The community would be contributing $213,000.
The province and feds have said they will support this with money if the city puts the money in first. Councillor Sam Austin is hesitant to commit because the city has a bad habit of doing things just because they’re available, circumventing municipal planning. This project would definitely do that: The turf peeps decided to pitch this because they were tired of waiting for the HRM’s playing field strategy to come into play. Councillor Lisa Blackburn put forward a motion to formally review this proposal.