At a nice, quiet regular meeting of the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District this week the big topic of the day was noise. Some of the residents in the Upper Squamish Valley aren't happy with the noise they have to put up with in the summer months.
Matthias Jakob took more than 10 minutes at the meeting on Monday, Nov. 25 to speak on behalf of 50 of his neighbours and outline for SLRD directors how noise has impacted the lives of the people living in the area. He said the residents of the valley had 20 nights of interrupted sleep this summer due to noise coming from sanctioned and unsanctioned events.
"That's clearly unacceptable," said Jakob, who described the valley he lives in as a "rave haven."
Jakob said he and his neighbours feel the SLRD hasn't listened to their noise complaints and not enough is being done to deal with the problem. In his report to the SLRD he pointed to illegal rave hosts, a campground operator and a farm, which hosts multi-day motivational seminars as three sources of late-night noise.
The SLRD has a noise bylaw for Area D, but event organizers can get permits from the SLRD that specifically allow the event to make noise beyond the time set out in the noise bylaw.
Jakob came armed with a number of suggestions of how SLRD officials can deal with the noise issue. He recommended the SLRD stop issuing special event permits that allow event organizers to make noise later than the noise bylaw allows. He also encouraged the SLRD to discourage the use of amplified sound in the valley.
Ryan Wainwright, the SLRD emergency program manager, said the RCMP in Squamish is well aware of the noise issues in the valley. The police attend complaints in the valley but Wainwright said the lack of a summary ticket bylaw prevents the police from taking any action against bylaw violators.
"They're just not willing to go through the process of pursuing any sort of enforcement," said Wainwright.
He also said the RCMP isn't currently able to enforce the SLRD noise bylaw in the bylaw's current state.
Councillor Doug Race from Squamish said he dislikes it when municipal governments create bylaws they can't or won't enforce so he suggested the SLRD take legal action against the next bylaw violator by seeking a Supreme Court injunction against the violator.
"The one person that can control what happens on the property is the owner of the property, they're the ones ultimately permitting this to happen," said Race. "If it is a continual violation of bylaws, rather than send the police up there, if we just took somebody to Supreme Court and got an injunction against it that could be a very powerful remedy."
SLRD Chief Administrative Officer Lynda Flynn said the SLRD has previously used injunctions, but she added it would be costly if the SLRD took that direction with the noise issue.
"Is it fair to people that live up there to allow this type of thing to continue almost unabated?" Race asked. "I think not."
He said discussion at the SLRD board level is a waste of time if the SLRD isn't prepared to enforce its bylaws.
Moe Freitag, the director of the Area D portion of the SLRD, said the special events permit bylaw was brought in last year to address the noise issues in the Upper Squamish Valley, and things are better now than they were before the bylaw was introduced. He admitted the bylaw isn't perfect, and it doesn't solve all the problems, but it is better than the days when there weren't any regulations for special events involving crowds of 200 or more. He said the next key step being taken by the SLRD is the creation of a zoning bylaw for Area D.
"This is going to put another layer of bureaucracy in the way of people doing things on their lands that are not permitted uses," said Freitag.
The special events bylaw was updated at the meeting. The updated bylaw sets penalties for violations at a maximum of $2,000.