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Proposal for 'noise cameras' in Saanich temporarily shelved

Coun. Teale Phelps Bondaroff had wanted staff to look into the cameras to tackle noise pollution
Vehicles pass Carey Road on the Trans-Canada Highway near Uptown. Saanich council discussed ways of penalizing drivers of vehicles making noise that’s loud enough to breach legal limits. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

Loud vehicles in Saanich were given a reprieve this week after Saanich council opted not to direct staff to look into the possibility of launching a noise-camera pilot project.

Noting district staff already have a heavy workload, council opted to refer the idea to its strategic planning process to see how it might fit into the work plan down the line.

Mayor Dean Murdock said council is expecting an update on its strategic priorities this spring and at that point might learn where noise cameras fit into the mix.

“What we’re mindful of is that there are a number of priorities that council has requested staff work on as part of our strategic plan and we want to ensure if we’re adding a new item, that we’re not overwhelming staff with requests,” he said.

The idea of establishing a pilot project for noise cameras came from Coun. Teale Phelps Bondaroff, who said it’s important to tackle noise pollution, which has been linked to adverse health and social impacts, including stress, cardiovascular problems and disturbed sleep.

Phelps Bondaroff’s motion targeted vehicles, especially those equipped with aftermarket exhaust systems that breach legal limits.

He noted both the Motor Vehicle Act and Saanich bylaws address noise, but enforcing the regulations is challenging.

Other jurisdictions have explored the use of new technology to improve monitoring and enforcement, including noise cameras.

Paris and New York, for example, both have noise or acoustic cameras installed that will detect a noise of 85 decibels or more. The cameras, equipped with microphones, take a photo or video when activated and the owner of the vehicle is fined.

In New York City, the penalties for noise violations range from $800 to $2,625.

Bondaroff’s report noted the number of noise complaints reported to local authorities is relatively low, but that could be because witnesses lack the necessary information about infractions to enable law enforcement to act.

“A potential solution is noise cameras,” Phelps Bondaroff told council. “These provide continuous monitoring and they work like red-light traffic cameras, speed cameras.”

If the issue does come back to council this spring, there might be a few provincial hoops to jump through.

According to the Ministry of Transportation, there are no regulations that would govern use of technology to enforce vehicle noise regulations in a municipality.

The ministry noted motor-vehicle noise is regulated by the Motor Vehicle Act. Regulations require a motor vehicle, including motorcycles, to have an exhaust system that functions without excessive noise.

The regulations also prohibit the operation of a motor vehicle with a muffler that has been modified.

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