Kingston City Council approves delegated authority for ‘minor’ noise exemption requests

Kingstonist file photo.

Kingston City Council has approved a request from City Staff which aims to streamline the approval of amplified sound noise bylaw exemptions.

At their meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2024, Council received a report from City staff explaining that staff have seen the number of residential noise exemption requests rise as many residents have returned to holding small gatherings in private settings, such as their backyards, or smaller neighbourhood/community events, post COVID restrictions.

Examples of the requests were stated to be primarily small outdoor family events (gatherings/weddings) held at private homes.

“In 2023, staff received 24 requests for noise exemptions through the City website. Of those 24, only five reports have been submitted to Council with applicants following through on the process. An additional five exemptions were submitted to staff as re-occurring exemptions (i.e. Queen’s Orientation, Richardson Stadium),” City staff stated in the report.

Within the City of Kingston, there are two distinct regulated areas regarding amplified sound.

This map shows the designated residential and non-residential (“other”) areas of Kingston. Graphic via City of Kingston bylaw documents.

According to the report from city staff, in “residential areas,” amplification of sound is always prohibited.

“Members of the community that live in these designated areas are required to keep their music to a minimum, and if the music can be heard from one premise to another, it could be considered a violation,” the report reads.

In “other areas,” amplification of sound is allowed up until 11 p.m., seven days a week. According to the report, there are requirements that music cannot start until 7 a.m. each day of the week, except for Sunday, when that time period begins at 9 a.m. These areas are mostly zoned commercial throughout the city, along with the Downtown Kingston Business Improvement Area, as visible on the above map.

The current process for a noise exemption in a “residential area” can be onerous, the report notes, taking a minimum of eight weeks to get a report to Council and costing $347.80 for permit plus publication costs.

“This eight-week timeframe is constituted of staff time to write a Report to Council, as well as allowing for the public display/publication of a notice regarding the event and a requisite period for responses/concerns to be received from the public,” the report reads.

Staff noted that residents are avoiding the lengthy process and instead are choosing to assume the risk of receiving a penalty notice, which, for an amplified sound infraction, costs $200.

To streamline the process, staff recommended the delegation of authority to authorize amplified sound noise bylaw exemptions of a minor nature to the Director of Licensing and Enforcement. Amplified sound noise bylaw exemption requests of any other nature (i.e. multiple days, significant potential community effect, affecting public property, large number of participants, etc.) would continue to be brought to Council for approval.

Councillors voted unanimously in favour of the recommendation to delegate the authority. The motion passed without discussion.

Members of the public can view the full agenda from the meeting on the City of Kingston’s City Council meetings webpage, and the meeting can be viewed in full on the Kingston City Council YouTube channel.

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