Why is the Province permitting this noisy work to occur more frequently, especially if you are expected to stay in your home? Excessive noise is a public health issue at any time but can be worse during this time. The Province of Ontario wants noise exemptions for essential construction projects to allow for 24/7 construction work for projects such as medical facilities and other related services to help speed up the response to COVID-19. It also announced that ALL construction that did not meet that criteria to be permitted to work between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., seven days a week.
Thanks to Councillors Krystin Wong-Tam and Josh Matlow for providing us with ways to make our objections known, see Province Overrides Municipal Noise By-Law .
Province Overrides Municipal Noise By-Law
An alarming new regulation was introduced this week which may have significant impacts on when construction can occur in the city, which will allow residential developers -- those still oddly considered “essential” -- to work outside the City’s noise by-law between 6am and 10pm, seven days a week.
It was announced on Thursday that the Province of Ontario was seeking to provide noise exemptions to essential construction projects to allow for 24/7 construction work for projects such as medical facilities and other related services to help speed up the response to COVID-19. The Province also announced that ALL construction that did not meet that criteria to be permitted to work between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m., seven days a week.
From the beginning, when the Province released their list of essential workplaces that could remain operating during this pandemic, many questions were raised about why residential construction sites were considered an “essential service.” A public health rationale has never been provided. Construction sites require a large number of contractors working in close proximity to one another, making physical distancing very challenging, and one wonders how these new residential condominium units, very few of them affordable, will assist Ontario in combating COVID-19.
Following the initial list of essential services released, the Province ordered residential construction projects that had not received an above-grade building permit to stop. The rationale that those projects with an above-grade building permit should be deemed essential and those without it be non-essential, has not been clarified. For the Province to allow developers the automatic ability to go well beyond what the City’s noise by-law permits is shocking and entirely unacceptable, in light of the fact that residents are being told to stay home. We are now subjected to noise early in the morning and well into the late evening.
One of the most common complaints my office receives is about noise, particularly noise from construction sites. For those unaware, under the City’s noise by-law, construction equipment can only operate Monday to Friday 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Saturdays 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. No construction noise is permitted on Sundays and statutory holidays. These by-law hours were established after extensive consultation with residents, noise experts, developers and the construction industry. They provide a balance to allow residents living near construction sites the reasonable ability to enjoy their homes while allowing construction to occur at a reasonable pace.
This new regulation the Province introduced will allow developers to not only provide an additional four hours to run noisy construction equipment during the week but will allow a developer to wake us up at 6 a.m. every day of this holiday weekend, through your virtual holiday celebrations with your friends and family, ending at 10 p.m. where you then have an eight hour period to get sleep before you are woken up again at 6 a.m. the following day. Currently, this Provincial regulation is set to expire in October 2021.
If there is a public health rationale for residential construction during a health pandemic to be considered “essential” - especially housing that will not address our very vulnerable homeless population - then the Provincial Chief Medical Officer of Health needs to provide it. If the province is going to override municipal noise by-laws, then they must be surgical in their approach, not broad. It is easy to see how this change will benefit condominium developers, and hard to see how this will benefit residents trying to manage living through COVID-19.
If you hear a residential construction site beginning work before 7 a.m. and after 7 p.m., Monday to Friday and before 9 a.m. and after 7 p.m. on Saturdays, or at any time on Sundays or on holidays, I urge you to contact the Province’s hotline at 1-888-444-3659 between the proper hours of 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. and ask why the Province has deemed residential construction essential, and why the Province is permitting this noisy work to occur more frequently, especially if you are expected to stay in your home. You can also contact Premier Doug Ford at firstname.lastname@example.org and his legislative office at (416) 325-1941 to lodge your complaint. I know I will.
My friend and colleague Josh Matlow has also started an open letter, requesting that the Province of Ontario provide the public with a rationale for Limitation 2 to Ontario Regulation 130/20 of the City of Toronto Act concerning construction by-laws. You can view and sign the letter online.
Councillor Krystin Wong-Tam