Plateau noise crackdown launches a cacaphony of its own

By Shawn Katz
September 9th 2010

Critics have warned it could kill off the dynamic Montreal indie music world and crush the Plateau’s vibrant bar and cultural scene. Its supporters say they are protecting the area’s quality of life and preventing the nightlife drags of the Plateau – St-Laurent, St-Denis, and Mont-Royal Avenue most importantly – from becoming the next Crescent street.

Passions have been stoked on all sides of the debate since the Plateau Mont-Royal borough, led by Projet Montreal, announced a crackdown on noise earlier this summer, implementing a more than tenfold hike in infractions for bars and venues found in violation of the noise bylaw. The measure, in effect as of August 25, sees the new maximum fine raised to $12,000, up from the former $1,000. Coming at around the same time as the Plateau has ordered all ad billboards taken down within a year, it’s but the latest sign that the Projet Montreal team newly in charge is not afraid of ruffling some feathers in pursuit of their agenda.

Musicians and bar owners lined up at a recent council meeting in the borough to voice opposition to the plan, and warn that the move could spell the end of small music venues and nightlife spots – many of which acted as springboards for the likes of Arcade Fire and other local acts to go on and make it big internationally. Hilary Leftick, the executive director of local music festival Pop Montreal and one of two dozen citizens who lined up to speak at the council meeting, said that bar owners feel “persecuted,” and voiced concern about the arbitrary nature of the regulations.  “If you are going to have these laws that are so harsh and the fines are so heavy, at least give people something to measure themselves against – set a decibel level so that it is not something that is completely subjective.”

Borough Mayor Luc Ferrandez and the councillors from Projet Montreal, however, say critics’ concerns are overblown. Ferrandez says the borough has received 3,000 noise complaints in the last five months alone, and that they must act to prevent residents from fleeing the streets of the Plateau as has been the case with Crescent street downtown. The charm of the Plateau, says Ferrandez, is largely in its mix of residential and commercial space, and it’s a harmony which must be maintained. He said he was open to meeting with bar owners to discuss possible solutions, such as better sound-proofing, but that the measure would go ahead.

Carl Boileau, the councillor for De Lorimier district, writes in an op-ed piece in Le Devoir that the changes were necessary to free up police resources. He argues that the vast majority of complaints targeted a small handful of repeat offenders – pegged at around 10 bars by Ferrandez – and that the previous fines were failing to have any dissuasive effect, despite “hundreds of warnings” and dozens of infractions doled out by the authorities. The goal, he writes, is not to shut down bars and venues or transform the Plateau into a “dormitory neighbourhood (quartier-dortoir)”, but rather to prevent  “our traditional bistros” along Mont-Royal Avenue, for instance, from gradually morphing into “discotheques” a la Crescent street.

The cacaphony, it seems, has only just begun.
Continue reading on Plateau noise crackdown launches a cacaphony of its own – Montreal Public Policy |

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