Wendy Elliott column
We lived in downtown Wolfville when we had our first child. A typical baby, he went to bed early and woke up early. His routine was the opposite of the athletic university students who had one of the three apartments in the old house we rented.
They partied late and slept in. One night in mid-winter, when that pattern was well established, the three of us were kept awake into the wee hours by raucous music and alcohol-fuelled merriment.
When our infant woke us at his usual morning hour, we were exceedingly bleary-eyed and hatched a plot for revenge. We moved our stereo - that was before the days of iPods - into the room closest to the party animals and played Sharon, Lois and Bram at an excessive level.
The partying next door never got quite as loud again.
One recent weekend, there was a large party on Westwood Avenue in Wolfville that resulted in five calls to the RCMP. I was surprised to learn that no charges were laid under the town’s noise bylaw, so I checked into the reason. Those who are bothered have to be willing to stand as complainants.
The town’s new bylaw enforcement officer, Dave Bretell, says noise complaints should be made directly to him when he’s working or to the RCMP if he’s away from the office and an immediate response is required.
“If I am working, I will attend, and if I witness the disturbance first hand, I can take immediate action to stop the disturbance, and if necessary, issue a Summary Offence Ticket (SOT).”
If the RCMP attend, they will take appropriate action to stop the disturbance, he said, and will then pass the complaint file on to him for follow up.
When Bretell investigates noise complaints that he has not witnessed firsthand; that were reported after the fact or to the RCMP; or if he is gathering evidence in support of a prosecution, he will speak to the person who made the complaint and take a statement from them.
“I will also take a statement from any other witnesses, and a warned statement from those who were responsible. Once I have gathered and assessed the evidence, I will then issue a warning, lay a charge or issue an SOT.”
Issuing an SOT can result in court proceedings if the individual in question wishes to contest the ticket - laying a charge and pleading not guilty will involve a trial. If this is the case, the person who made the complaint, as well as any other witnesses, may be required to attend court to give evidence. Obviously, they will have been made aware of this fact when the initial complaint was made.
In terms of how he handles noise complaints, Bretell tries to give at least one warning. Warnings are recorded and “can be taken into account should further disturbances take place. I will also make the landlord aware that tenants have been issued a noise warning.”
Landlords certainly need to be on board. I know that there are property owners who have gotten out of their warm beds and headed down to the police station when bothered by noise. A hot tub party or two in our RI neighbourhood prompted me, facing a workday, to wrap my coat around my PJs and visit said neighbours to ask for a reprieve from the rock music. They obliged.
Wolfville is lucky to have an enforcement officer. Out in Kings County, there are no noise bylaws. Loud parties can result in mischief charges, but that doesn’t happen often.