RDCK Area D Director Aimee Watson asked the district to see if its noise control bylaw might be applied to a gravel pit operation south of Kaslo. File photo

RDCK Area D Director Aimee Watson asked the district to see if its noise control bylaw might be applied to a gravel pit operation south of Kaslo. File photo

Noise bylaw not a quick fix to Area D issue: RDCK report

Residents living near a gravel pit operation south of Kaslo want action

by John Boivin

Local Journalism Initiative, Valley Voice

Applying the RDCK’s noise control bylaw to Area D may not solve local concerns about industrial activity in the area, a report to the regional government’s board says.

The service case report on the noise bylaw and Area D was presented to the RDCK at its last meeting.

Area D Director Aimee Watson asked staff to do the study after locals came to her asking if there was some way to put limits on the operation of a gravel pit planned by Brenton Industries just south of Kaslo.

“The only action Area D could implement soon in response to this proposed project is noise control,” Watson reported to the board. “As per the request from community members, I did request a service case review on what that would cost and how it would work.”

The review, however, doesn’t provide a strong service case.

Research analyst Tom Dool first noted that he could not look at the financial impact of adding Area D to the noise bylaw, as looking at expanding the capacity of bylaw enforcement was beyond the study’s scope. Not adding resources would obviously have no budget impact – but not adding resources to enforce new bylaws can be fraught with risk.

Socially, adding new regulations like noise to areas that don’t have them “can run contrary to previously established social norms,” the study says. And without support, “The general nature of the regulation can result in a varied understanding of what constitutes a nuisance, and without clear guidance and interpretation from staff, exacerbate existing conflicts within the community.”

The lack of staff resources “may result in a low level of compliance with the regulation,” the report cautions.

Gravel pits exempt

But it gets worse for noise bylaw proponents. The bylaw has no power to limit the impact of the noise created by a gravel pit.

“Current exemptions as related to industrial uses within the bylaw include provisions for construction, demolition, excavation, land clearing, grading, earth moving, and the moving and repair of machinery,” the case study notes, adding that gravel pit regulation is a provincial matter.

“Gravel pits are permitted by the provincial government under the Mines Act. It is understood that gravel pits will produce noise that may be offensive to neighbours,” says the report. “So long as the gravel pit is compliant with land use planning and operating within the constraints of their operating permit there is no recourse available to local government.”

Ultimately, the report says the noise bylaw wasn’t designed to deal with industrial issues.

“Current noise control regulation within the Regional District has been designed and implemented largely as a measure to resolve conflict between neighbours in a residential area,” it says. “It is not an appropriate tool for the regulation of economic activities. These activities are better regulated through land use planning.”

While giving no recommendation, it says the board has two options: to add the noise bylaw without extra resources, undermining its effectiveness; or add it with the needed resources. However, it says a comprehensive review of bylaw enforcement services is scheduled for this summer, and says it might be best to wait for that report before moving forward.

The board received the report as information. Director Watson says she’ll go back to her constituents to see if there’s any appetite for moving forward.

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