Coquitlam OKs extra hour of construction noise to allow physical distancing

Noisy construction work can now go from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturdays in Coquitlam

Changes to Coquitlam’s noise bylaw mean construction crews will be allowed to work longer hours during the COVID-19 pandemic.

A verbal resolution approved by council at its meeting Monday adds an extra hour to the end of the day on weekdays and two hours to the end of the day on Saturdays. The development industry said it needs the additional time to stagger shifts and allow for greater physical distancing on job sites.

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“Construction is declared an essential service by the province,” said deputy city manager Raul Allueva. “Construction and development is a key to economic development… and it is a very important contribution to our economic lifeline.”

Under the new rules, construction can take place between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturdays. Noise that disturbs is still prohibited on Sundays and holidays. 

Not everyone supported the resolution, which was passed during a meeting conducted via video conferencing as part of the city’s response to the COVID-19 crisis.

Coun. Brent Asmundson opposed the measures, noting people are already struggling with the impacts of the pandemic. Many are isolated at home for long periods of time and do not want additional disruptions, he added.

“The construction extension is going to add more aggravation to people’s lives,” he said. 

It is not just people that are staying at home during the pandemic that will be affected by the change, said Coun. Bonita Zarrillo. Those who do shift work, like health care professionals, will also be disturbed, she added, noting that many people in a variety of different industries are working longer shifts to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Out of respect for those people that are working multiple extra hours… we shouldn’t be changing the quality of their life right now,” she said.

The language in the current noise bylaw allows for construction activities beyond the current hours provided it does not disturb the peace, Zarrillo said. She added there is nothing stopping crews from doing quiet work, like painting or electrical, after 8 p.m.

However, the practical application of the regulations generally means sites shut down in accordance with the noise bylaw, Allueva said. 

“The reality is in the field there are… nuances about what can make noise and what can be impacted,” he said.

But the majority of council voted in favour of the changes.

Coun. Chris Wilson said the resolution improves worker safety and minimizes the transmission of the novel coronavirus. He added that many of the projects underway are also bringing badly needed housing to the community. 

“As much as we are in a virus crisis now, we are also in a housing crisis,” he said. “These workers can continue to work and provide economic development in our communities and bring really much needed housing.”

Coun. Dennis Marsden said while he struggled with the impact the noise would have on the community, he also believes the measures are necessary to protect workers. He added that if the city is going to go ahead with the noise bylaw changes, enforcement should ensure that sites are complying with the physical distancing protocols. 

“They need to keep the sites safe,” he said. “We are doing this so they can provide safe sites with the physical distancing that is necessary.”

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