Dialing down festival noise: Montreal, Saint-Lambert strike working group

The mayors of Montreal and Saint-Lambert, along with the provincial environment minister, have announced they are creating a working group, just ahead of the busy summer concert season, to try and find a solution to the battle over the blare of the music from the venue at Parc Jean-Drapeau.

Battle of the blare has been waging since Ville-Marie borough lifted noise restrictions in 2014

Construction at the usual festival site at Parc Jean Drapeau means this season's music fests will be held closer to Saint-Lambert on the Gilles Villeneuve circuit.

The mayors of Montreal and Saint-Lambert, along with the provincial environment minister, have announced they are creating a working group just ahead of the busy summer concert season to try to find a solution to the blaring music from Parc Jean-Drapeau.

"Following a fruitful one-hour meeting, the parties agreed to continue working together to improve relations between the two cities," a statement from the office of Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante said.

Pierre Brodeur, the mayor of the South Shore municipality, says he's optimistic a deal can be reached that will keep his town quieter during the summer weekends.

"We live in a world of negotiations and compromises," Brodeur told Radio-Canada.

The city is in the process of building a new amphitheatre on Île Sainte-Hélène which will hold 65,000 concert goers. The stage will face the south shore, giving spectators a view of the Montreal skyline. Brodeur, who was elected in St Lambert last fall, wants the stages and speakers reoriented so they face the Montreal side of the island, projecting the noise west. 

After taking a year hiatus because of construction at Parc Jean Drapeau, the Heavy Montreal festival will return in 2018. (Pat Beaudry/Evenko)

The conflict over sound levels has been dragging out since 2014, when the Ville-Marie borough, which includes Île Notre-Dame and Île Sainte-Hélène, lifted the fixed noise limits on concerts.

Saint-Lambert has taken the fight to court, suing Montreal and concert promoter Evenko in an attempt to force them to find a solution to the noise problem.

Some of the festivals usually held on Île Sainte-Hélène have been moved closer to Saint-Lambert, to Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve on Île Notre-Dame, because of ongoing renovations to the concert site.

Brodeur said he's hopeful a solution can be reached outside the courtroom.The municipality of 22,000 has already spent close to a million dollars on lawyers and "doesn't have the means" to continue the legal fight, he said.

New mayors, new deal?

Coderre had shut down talks between the two municipalities on the issue, according to Brodeur.

In contrast, Montreal's Plante administration has already pledged to comply with environmental legislation that prohibits noise pollution.

However, that too could be somewhat muddled by the fact that the government proposed changes that appear to back Coderre's hard line on prioritizing events over noise concerns.

The current law forces anyone who undertakes activities that lead to emissions or modifications in or to the environment, including noise emissions, to obtain a certificate from the government.

But the new regulations would no longer require promoters to get permission before holding events such as fireworks shows, car races or concerts with amplifiers.

Environment Minister Isabelle Melançon also attended today's meeting at Montreal City Hall.

Saint-Lambert residents have complained the noise from the festivals rattles windows, shakes houses and disrupts peaceful summer evenings.

Noise levels of 108 decibels (dB) have been recorded at the concert site and a level of 68 dB was recorded at one residence in Saint-Lambert.

The World Health Organization considers noise above 55 dB to be "disturbing to sleep."

With files from Radio-Canada's Thomas Gerbet


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