The City of Ottawa’s 2016 update to their Environmental Noise Control Guidelines has established the City as a leader among Ontario municipalities in addressing a major side effect of high-density development and urban intensification – land use compatibility disputes between neighbours as it relates their noise sensitivities and noise production.
While improved noise guidelines for land use planning were developed and published by the Ontario Ministry of Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) in their 2013 publication Environmental Noise Guideline – Stationary and Transportation Source – Approval and Planning (NPC-300), the MOECC has no authority under the Planning Act; as such, adoption and enforcement of the guidelines is at the discretion of the local planning authority. The MOECC however does enforce the NPC-300 criteria on noise emitting industries under the Environmental Protection Act (EPA); but without equal enforcement of noise guidelines by the municipality during the land use planning process, cases of existing industries that were previously compliant with the EPA forced to install costly noise controls to remain compliant as a result of their new, noise-sensitive neighbours, has become all too common, with negative impacts on both the industry and noise-sensitive occupants.
The City of Ottawa’s updated guideline takes a major step toward avoiding these land use compatibility issues in their municipality, most significantly through comprehensive criteria for triggering the requirement for noise studies for both noise sensitive and noise generating developments. Additionally, clear guidance is provided for varying levels of noise studies:
- A Phase 1 Noise Control Feasibility Study, to establish whether or not noise will be an issue;
- A Phase 2 Noise Control Detailed Study, to provide a detailed assessment of noise impacts and mitigation requirements.
A crucial requirement for the Phase 2 study, is that mitigation measures must be included as specific designs in the Site Plan, not simply as recommendations that certain criteria be met. By including specific designs as part of the Site Plan Control the City is ensuring that the required mitigation measures will actually be implemented. This benefits both industry and residential developments by ensuring that all developments consider existing and potential future noise impacts on others, as well as on themselves.
The City of Ottawa’s previous guidelines were already a step ahead in protecting both noise-sensitive developments and existing industries, and this update has raised the bar once again.