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Be quiet! Port Coquitlam sets new noise limits amid hundreds of complaints

You'll have to shut down your party earlier, limit late-night lawn mowing and put a muffler on your vehicle if you want to avoid a ticket under PoCo's new bylaw changes.
Port Coquitlam is making it easier to measure noise to crack down on problem sounds.

Your loud muffler, pickle ball game, or late night party music will come under increasing scrutiny with an update to Port Coquitlam's noise bylaw.

Council has approved changes that would give bylaw officers more tools for addressing dozens of noise complaints the city receives each year.

With fines ranging from $210 to $500, the city seeks to shut down noisy parties earlier, crack down on loud vehicles and ensure that lawn mowing in the evening doesn't disturb the peace of neighbours.

What is being done to stop disturbing noise?

But one person's reasonable noise might be another person's racket, so how do you measure how bad the sound is?

That's a question the new noise bylaw amendment seeks to address.

"Noise which disturbs is highly subjective and includes things such as sports (i.e. noise from basketball, pickle ball, tennis, and pools), high pitched or high frequency sounds, daycare noise, noise from businesses, and exhaust fans," staff stated in a report to Port Coquitlam council.

Other problematic noises include construction noise, dog barking and amplified music, with as many as 145 calls for service last year and 144 in 2020.

In bylaw changes, the city hopes to deal with noise issues that are "extremely challenging," with new provisions added to "assist staff in gaining compliance while applying more objectivity to complex noise issues."

Last year, for example, there were:

  • 66 complaints of "noise which disturbs"
  • 32 complaints about construction noise
  • 30 complaints about animal behaviour
  • 17 complaints amplified music, speech after hours

In changes adopted on Tuesday (July 19), the city defines problem noise as continuous noise, which is any noise or sound lasting longer than three minutes, or occurring continually, sporadically or erratically but totalling more than three minutes in any 15-minute period of time.

Additionally, noise would be measured from the point the sound is heard rather than the property line.

"This will assist enforcement officers in ascertaining how loud the sound is where the disturbance is being experienced and allow for the person with the air conditioner or heat pump to be better able to achieve the required decibel level," a staff report states.

Decibel levels have also been increased from 45 decibels to 50 (day) and 55 (night) decibels, in the average range compared to other municipalities

Port Coquitlam noise bylaw changes

Other changes to the noise bylaw include the following:

  • Noise is prohibited from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. — one hour earlier from the previous 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. restriction to recognize that some people work shifts and the need for quiet should be expanded
  • New definitions for day and night — "Day" = 7 a.m .to 10 p.m., "Night" = 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.
  • Construction noise is only permitted between Monday and Friday (except holidays) between the hours of 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. and Saturday (except holidays) between the hours of 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. However, a provision has been added to permit home owners to do construction activities on their residence on a Sunday or statutory holiday, such as deck repair.
  • New statutory holidays have been amended to include Thanksgiving, as well as Family Day and the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation
  • Hours that lawn and garden tool noise is permitted is limited to the hours of 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., down from from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. This change "reduces the window for noise disturbance created by lawn equipment, recognizing that residents may want to enjoy their outdoor space, that people have varied work shifts, or young children trying to sleep."
  • A provision has been added to permit garbage truck noise from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday to Saturday, and between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. on Sundays or statutory holidays, acknowledging that some private contractors work on Sundays while still limiting the hours to avoid disturbing residents.
  • Fines will be in the $210 to $500 range
  • Vehicle noise that causes a nuisance is prohibited and comes with a $300 fine. The city hopes this will address vehicles with loud exhaust or modified mufflers that are "consistently disturbing."
  • A variation in the Noise Regulation Bylaw can be requested with permission in writing from the Manager of Building or Manager of Bylaw Services.