Friday, 28 February 2014

Queen's West Campus noise exemption request (Updated)

Over the last several months, there has been an ongoing issues with local Kingston residents near the Queen's West Campus turf field, located out near Richardson Stadium (corner of Sir John A MacDonald Blvd and Johnson St).

This Tuesday (March 4), Kingston City Council (as part of their agenda) will be receiving a recommendation from City staff as to how an exemption for the noise by-law should be applied to the field.

The report (available online) is a 200+ page report detailing what City staff feel is an acceptable exemption from the current by-laws. These recommendations come out of the various noise complaints received over the past few years (or so), public meetings, and discussion between the relevant parties.

The quick summary of the exemptions recommended are that Richardson Stadium, the North Field and the Turf Field will be exempt from Monday to Thursday between 9am and 11pm, and Friday through Sunday (including statutory holidays) from 9am to 9:30pm. At all times, 10-15 minutes will be allowed for participants to leave the field area safely. There will also be single use occurrences for Friday through Sundays (and holidays) that allow up to 24 extra days per year (Richardson counts as one block, North Field and the Turf Field count have their own block of 24 days) of 11pm deadlines.

For the North and Turf Fields, marching bands are not allowed and amplified sound or announcements may only be used between 9am and 9pm for short periods of time. For marching band use at Richardson, a single occurrence exemption must be used.

Whether this is acceptable to local residents is another question, and a late January article from the Whig-Standard suggests that this may not be the case. Having said that, Queen's held a public town hall meeting last week and invited residents of the neighbourhood for discussion. Combined with discussions with City staff, councillors, and the mayor, the by-law exemption request was made to be more specific before its presentation to City staff earlier this week.

As noted above, the item is on the agenda for Tuesday's City Council meeting and is expected to be heard sometime shortly after 7:30pm.


Around 2pm this afternoon, a media release from Susan Reid and Thomas Moynihan was passed my way, and I am including it in its entirety below.

City Residents, Queen's Alumni and Queen's students should note the appalling double standard Queen's Administration has when it makes money off of its' noise violations! (Like they make Alumni $$ off Homecoming's National Infamy as a Huge Street Party and Noisy Drunk-fest!)
Media Release from Kingston City Residents
re Queen’s University Application for Permanent Exemption from City Noise Bylaws
February 28, 2014
We strongly oppose Queen’s University’s Application for a permanent and complete noise exemption for all activities on Queen’s West Campus fields.  This exemption will removes all legal protection for Kingston city residents from excessive noise, and hands authority for compliance and regulation to the very administration whose management decisions and activities have created the exponentially increasing excessive noise violations.
We all live in the increasing dark shadow of Queen’s University campus activities –noise from Queen’s activity is once again poised  to add to this institutions’ profoundly negative effects on nearby Kingston city residents.
Queen’s is seeking to legitimize their recent development of their property, a development that has been shown to not meet community standards in terms of the light and noise pollution it is creating. City bylaw has found them to be in violation repeatedly and this fall Queen’s was  notified that the City was proceeding to charges against Queen’s after repeated discussions and warnings elicited no significant change in their managing  of noisy late night activities on fields surrounded by residential housing.  Queen’s failure to design their facility to meet community standards and their absolute disinterest in adequately containing the blowback from their activities has been established with the very mechanism they seek exemption from.  The existing noise bylaw is the only mechanism the citizens have to ensure a minimum level of social responsibility from Queen’s University. 
1.            Queen’s University’s nationally infamous Homecoming parties that fill weekends with noise and partying pale when compared to Queen’s Administrations maneuvering to completely remove all noise protection from residents living near their West Campus.  Aberdeen street level noise problems will become a nightly experience for hundreds of center city residents if this complete noise exemption is granted by Kingston councilors at next week’s Council meeting.
2.            Access to daily quiet time is essential for human well-being.   Why would this area deserve no protection under City noise bylaws?   How can the City or Queen’s University justify re-allocating all of local peoples respite time to provide for visitors recreation-meanwhile leaving residents no “re-creation’ time of their own? 

3.            Renting out the fields to non-student groups and semi pro leagues is simply running a business to generate income for the University.  Queen’s Senate records show Queen’s Administration is absolutely intent on increasing revenue generation from these fields - how is Queen’s different from any other commercial operator?  Queen’s just signed a 3 year agreement with a pro soccer team whose broadcast PA system repeatedly disrupted the residential nature of the area all last fall.  This is exactly why Queen’s seeks to remove all legal noise protection from its’ neighbours for 14 hours of every day.

4.            Queen's response to complaints about the impact of their activities is to demand that before Queen’s will do anything substantive -  any affected city residents must lose any right to a typical level of quiet in their neighbourhoods after 9pm.  

What other ideas has Queen’s seriously pursued in an attempt to act within the bylaws?  Building fields under domes as other groups who operate intensive programs have already done at RMC and Westport?  Built earthen berms?  Included sound absorbing structures? Relocated or changed scheduling of noisy activities?  No - nothing substantive to date except this demand for exemption.
5.            Shame on Queen's for doing exactly what it tells its Aberdeen street students to NOT do.  Frankly Queen’s Administration’s double standard here is appalling and self-serving; Queen’s Alumnae and current Queen’s Students should be outraged.
6.            This would be a catastrophic precedent for the City to establish - Queen’s is not the only well connected big developer who would find it extremely expedient to have council permanently remove noise bylaw protection from residents.   Queen’s published Master plan and Fund Raising Initiatives Campaign for West Campus describe creating a high intensity “Athletics Cluster” with self-described activities of a “disruptive nature” .  With no community standard bylaws to meet – what kind of development can their neighbours expect?
7.            The basic elements constituting the quality of life of people should not be unilaterally expropriated by an institution for its’ own purposes, especially to sell to generate field rental income for the pleasure of other groups.   Granting this exemption is tantamount to doing this.

8.            Simply because there are many people are content to have their fellow citizens live with no respite noise and who also enjoy playing games late into the evening,  it does not follow that Councilors should remove the  ability of hundreds of residents  to enjoy almost every evening and weekend.  Where is the balance?  The balance is provided by the bylaws.  The appropriate solution is to build and appropriately manage facilities that meet their legitimate programming demands while continuing to respect the existing bylaws and serve all citizens well.

9.            Exemptions undermine the law, creating a situation where every well connected large interest group gets leverage to attempt to overturn social policies that were in place to ensure long term valuable goals.  The noise bylaw would become only a lost idea, simply the departure point for demanding huge concessions of residents.
Contact information:  Stop Queen’s Noise
Further information available at:

Update Two

At City Council tonight, the motion was withdrawn for consideration today late in the game to allow for more public consultation before resubmitting the request. In addition, it seems that a petition against granting the exemption was presented with "approximately seven signatures."

Consider me baffled at the use of the word approximately. Is it really that difficult to count to seven?

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