*Sigh* Even before I read this article, I just knew it was referring to Diane Holmes. Who else but Holmes and the joyless, small-minded NIMBYs she represents would try to ruin everything for everyone?
Bluesfest at risk of being turned down, councillor warns
Holmes tells residents how to complain, plans to gather data about noise every night
The Ottawa Citizen
Saturday, July 05, 2008
Bluesfest could be forced to turn its volume down.
City Councillor Diane Holmes says that "noise" from the internationally renowned event could result in the festival's special noise exemption being revoked by council. She has also written to residents explaining how they can use official channels to complain about Bluesfest and will be gathering neighbourhood noise data every night of the festival.
Along with other special events such as the Air Show and Tulip Festival, Bluesfest has a city exemption that allows noise at the source of any potential complaint to reach 65 decibels. The regular noise limit is 55 decibels.
Ms. Holmes, councillor for Somerset, personally approves the Bluesfest exemption each year because the festival is in her ward.
"The noise is unacceptable to quite a few people," she said yesterday. "I've talked to other people who don't necessarily phone in, but what they're all saying is that it's not music that comes to them, it's the music of several bands merged as noise. Their windows are shaking. These residents are saying that the limit is too high and that the noise bylaw provides for too much noise."
About 25,000 people attended the first night of Bluesfest on Thursday and city hall received 26 complaints. Most were in the immediate vicinity of the Canadian War Museum festival site, but two came from the Glebe area. Bylaw officers dispatched to homes to measure noise levels found only two cases in which the 65 decibel limit was exceeded -- one 65.3, the other 65.9. Other measurements were significantly below the allowed limit.
Ms. Holmes agreed that the two cases where the limit was exceeded were minor, but that suggests the limit that might be too high, she said.
"I've received many complaints over many years about the blues festival wherever they have been located," she said. "They are the only festival I get any complaints about. It is a noisier festival. I never get complaints about the jazz festival."
Bluesfest artistic director Mark Monahan says the issue is whether the festival is following the rules.
"Why is there a noise bylaw exemption?" he said. "It's to allow special events to exist in a reasonable way with the community. I'm not sure why we should be singled out, and as far as I'm concerned, as long as we abide by the guidelines we are operating in a responsible fashion. The issue is not whether we get the exemption, but whether we are adhering to rules."
It is a "very sensitive subject," he added.
"I understand that when special events like this happen they have to co-exist with people who live in the community year round," he said. "But a better approach to this is to look at how other major festivals operate. The Bluesfest has become an international attraction and it's not really fair to compare it to a neighbourhood street party. How do the Montreal Jazz Festival, the New Orleans or Austin City Limits festivals operate? That's the model, but Councillor Holmes doesn't see it that way."
Any forced decibel reduction is bound to affect the festival, he said.
"We're operating on the basis of what the festival-goer wants to hear," he said. "Our aim is to please the customer. It's the motivation of any special event. But we tell the bands there is a noise bylaw and that they should be with in the agreed sound level."
Mr. Monahan said he has already received many e-mails praising Bluesfest.
"I even got a message from a guy who was sitting on his balcony two miles away saying how much he was enjoying listening to the music," he said.
Ms. Holmes, who insists she has nothing personal against Bluesfest, said she might also suggest that council hire a expert to advise the city on how best to deal with the noise.
"Maybe it would be worth the city hiring a noise specialist," she said, "to see whether directional changes of speakers -- pointing the speakers down to try and control the sound that travels up."
Ms. Holmes will be visit neighbourhoods in her ward tonight with bylaw inspectors to hear for herself.
Mr. Monahan said he prefers to use the word "music" to "noise" and added that it's important to keep the impact of Bluesfest in perspective.
"We have to look at what this festival means to the city," he said.
© The Ottawa Citizen 2008