Red Deer launching two-year pilot project to muffle noise

Red Deer is rolling out a pilot project that will eventually put up a roadblock to noisy vehicles in the city.

Red Deer is rolling out a pilot project that will eventually put up a roadblock to noisy vehicles in the city.

In a 6-3 vote council approved a two-year pilot that will look at design options in neighbourhoods, launch a community awareness campaign and initiate an urban centre noise strategy with other municipalities in efforts to muffle the noise.

Speaking in support of the pilot, Mayor Tara Veer said the city continues to feel pressure from the community to take action on this issue. It’s been on council’s agenda since 2005.

Coun. Lawrence Lee, along with Councillors Tanya Handley and Paul Harris voted against the pilot.

Lee said the project is a waste of time because it is an issue that should be dealt with on a provincial level because many other municipalities are struggling with it. He questioned the amount of time already spent on the project which brought no concrete solutions. He said the city needs to take a step back and advocate for a provincial strategy.

Veer said Lee raised a good point about responsibility and the reason it is on council’s agenda because it is a local issue that is not going away. She said every single Alberta municipality is struggling with it and until the provincial government takes a position on after-market parts and decibel levels, the city has to deal with it for its residents.

There are two pieces of legislation that deal with noise which include the Alberta Traffic Safety Act and City of Red Deer Community Standards Bylaw.

Director of Community Services Sarah Cockerill told council that vehicle noise is a complicated issue that is difficult to enforce. She said the available technology, the legislation and the courts are not often aligned which makes enforcement challenging.

She told council that staff has been researching the issue including looking at neighbouring municipalities for several years to come up with an enforceable Red Deer solution.

Neither Edmonton nor Calgary have found solutions to crackdown on the noise of all vehicles in their cities.

Cockerill said the city does not recommend altering the Community Standards Bylaw to set a limit on decibel levels until there is technology that supports a comprehensive vehicle enforcement strategy, not just for motorcycles.

Instead the approved pilot calls for the city to continue to utilize the existing provincial and municipal legislation related to vehicle noise attenuation. The city will host “decibel reading events” twice during the year to allow people to come see where their items register and learn more about noise attenuation. The city will continue to monitor the area of the community with the most complaints and investigate design options such as the addition berms, high walls/fences and addition of trees shrubs.

A report will come back to council in November 2016.

In other council news:

lDowntown businesses will have to pitch in a little more next year.

City council approved the Downtown Business Association’s budget of $598,258 for 2015.

To comply with provincial legislation, each year the DBA must present a budget for the Business Revitalization Zone to council for approval.

The budget includes a five per cent increase in the BRZ levy which will bring in $348,005 up from $331,433 in 2014.

Council heard that there were no concerns from the businesses after receiving the letter about the increase.

An amendment to the Business Revitalization Zone Tax Bylaw will come to council at a future meeting.

lMore urban dog parks may be coming to neighbourhoods across the city.

Council directed administration to continue identifying and developing development dog off leash areas in the city as opposed to building a downtown off-leash dog park. Parks superintendent Trevor Poth told council that the research conducted over the last year indicated there was a need for more dog parks but not necessairly a park in the downtown care at this point.

lCouncil committed to a partnership agreement with the Red Deer Public School District to pave the way for a new public library in the new school that will be built in Inglewood. Council contributed $600,000 as a capital contribution towards expanding the library at the school, similar to the city’s partnership at Timberlands Library branch at École Barrie Wilson School. The city floated $450,000 toward the expansion of the library. The city also contributes to the operating costs to the new branch through an agreement with the Red Deer Public Library.

lWhile there are no known outdoor wood fire boilers in Red Deer, city council gave a go ahead to a ban as a proactive measure. Wood fire boilers are typically outdoors in sheds and act as boiler system. They are a concern because they emit smoke and add to the particulate matter in the air. Smoke from wood fire boilers pose health and environmental risks. Red Deer exceeded the Canada-wide standard for air quality for the last three years. In the late 1990s the city banned backyard burning of leaves and yard waste. Rocky Mountain House bans wood fire boilers under its land use bylaw.

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