A Muskoka lake bans excessive noise, including hooting, whistling, and singing

Published: March 28, 2018

Speaker on a picnic table [Credit: Flickr/MIKI Yoshihito]

While many people at the lake choose to embrace the peace and quiet of their natural surroundings, at Myers Lake, peace and quiet is now the law.

On March 8th, the Georgian Bay Township council passed a bylaw banning noisy behaviour — including “human sound such as yelling, shouting, hooting, whistling, singing,” and playing music over speakers. While in most residential areas, similar laws are in effect between 11:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m., at Myers Lake, cottagers are expected to keep quiet at all hours of the day.

The bylaw has been contentious among the people who own properties along the lake. The township received nine letters about the bylaw before it was passed, five against the new regulations, four in favour.

“We have been having a terrible time with the noise on the lake,” one of the supporters wrote. “All types of noise. I am two cottages over from a rental property in a small bay which is rented all summer. Unfortunately, many of the renters have no respect for either the cottage, the property, or the summer residents on the lake. I have spoken to the owner of the property but my comments seem to be ignored.”

There are 61 properties on the lake in total, including several that get rented out short-term to visitors.

So, if a renter is noisy, who will be held responsible? That’s where it gets tricky. Fire chief Tony VanDam has said that the offenders themselves will be charged, but that the township has the right to fine the property owner as well.

“If there are repeat offenders, the property owner will be charged, unless the property owner can prove that they’ve done everything reasonable to stop the noise.”

Councillor Brian Bochek suggests that renters include a clause about noise complaints in their rental agreements. “If you’re going to charge the owner of the property who rented it out, then they are going to put in their rental contact that you have to put a $2,000 down for noise violation and if you are in breach of that, then you are going to lose your $2,000. That’s going to ensure that both the renter and the owner have responsibility for that noise complaint. […] I totally agree with that.”

The council sees the law largely as a warning measure, to get lake residents to pay attention to how much noise they make. “All we have to do is issue one or two fines, and the game will change,” Councillor Pat Edwards said at the council meeting.

On social media, the issue has drawn comments and jokes from locals and nonresidents alike. “You cannot legislate respect or common sense[,] not to mention summer fun!” wrote Facebook user Colleen McCourt.

“This calls for a burping contest,” wrote Gord Darke.

Despite derision from some sides, the council decided to go ahead with the bylaw, foregoing a one-year trial. The rules will be enforced on a complaint basis, so police will only investigate noise issues if someone calls in to complain. It will then be up to the officer’s discretion whether they will try to educate the noise-makers or charge them.

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