Friday, March 25, 2016

Hooting and hollering now legal in town after being given council approval

The Town of Bracebridge in Ontario, Canada, have approved revisions to a new noise bylaw that allows “yelling, shouting, hooting or similar noises made by a human,” but there are limits. “Daytime hooting only please,” joked Scott Stakiw, chief bylaw enforcement officer for the Muskoka community. The new noise bylaw was approved during a town council meeting on Wednesday evening. Before the changes, those “human noises” were deemed illegal at all times. “Years ago, the province came out with a model noise control bylaw and the majority of municipalities in Ontario basically adopted it verbatim,” said Stakiw, who explained that model contained some “antiquated terms” from the 1980s. “I agree, the word hooting is hilarious, but that’s the way it’s written in there.”

What exactly hooting, or even hollering, sounds like seems open to interpretation. When asked to provide an example of either noise, Graydon Smith, the town’s mayor, said: “That is subjective and really up to the individual ears of the citizens of our community to determine.” Under the new bylaw, noisy radios will still be prohibited during the day, but hooting, cheering and similar noises are only prohibited between the hours of 11pm and 7am. Stakiw said his department hasn’t been dealing with a hooting “crisis,” but had received some inquiries about kids and summer camps, which prompted the town to look into updating its current laws. “Kids get excited and they potentially can yell, hoot or holler,” he said.

“So I said, ‘Why don’t we just go from an outright prohibition of this type of noise to just during the night when it’s more likely to be adults doing it.’” That still means having a noisy nighttime hootenanny or drunkenly singing at 2am on Main St. will still get you a ticket. The proposed change faced little opposition, but some staff thought the limit for noise should be set at 9pm, which led to a polite debate full of personal anecdotes. “I feel that we are giving people duct tape across their mouths if it’s 9 o’clock and they must now go home,” said Oakley Ward Councillor Barb McMurray, a self-described “pretty good hooter,” who pushed for the limit to be set at 11pm. District Councillor Steven Clement added that he has a friend with a “very loud voice” who “projects very well.”

“His normal voice at a campfire would be against the law, but I think by 11 o’clock we could subdue him ... I think we have to be a little realistic with this.” While he supported the change, Peter deMos, who operates LIV Outside, an adventure and gear store in town, acknowledged Muskoka can get pretty loud during the summer, especially when sound carries over water, so some sort of limit is needed. “People come here for peace and quiet,” he said. “They leave Toronto on the weekend to go to their cottage and relax.” But, he quickly added, that doesn’t mean all noise should be banned. “People are going to hoot and holler around a campfire at 10pm because they’re on vacation and that should be cool.” The bylaw was passed unanimously and while Stakiw said he was happy with the change, he did anticipate a potential problem. “I hope Bracebridge doesn’t get put on the map as the king of Ontario hooting.”

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