SEGUIN TWP. – Tempers flared Monday as councillors discussed a noise complaint filed against the Ontario Camp of the Deaf (OCD).
Tempers flare over noise from kids camp.
ATVs race around the track at the Ontario Camp of the Deaf.
Cody Storm Cooper/Beacon Star file photo
Two of three councillors who asked the township not to brush off the complaint, Coun. Alex Chidley and Coun. Rod Osborne, are long-standing critics of the camp’s motorized sports. In 2010, the two councillors were sent a letter by camp officials who, in retaliation, threatened them with trespassing if they visited the property.
The debate over camp activities peaked at council again during the Monday, July 16 meeting, with Coun. Chidley and Mayor David Conn hurling insults at each other.
The debate was prompted by a complaint a neighbour of the deaf camp filed with the township earlier this month, citing noisy motocross activities at the site.
The township has a noise bylaw banning racing on weekdays, between 8 p.m. and 9 a.m., starting at 6 p.m. on weekends and holidays, and restricting noise in general between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. It also has a 2010 memorandum of understand (MOU) with the camp allowing motocross as part of the camp’s regular programming.
The sound of motocross activities at the camp on First Lake, off Blackstone Crane Lake Road, has long irked area neighbours. In 2010, some neighbours filed a civil suit against the camp, which goes before a judge again in October.
In a draft letter to the complainant given to council for review, the township wrote: “The OCD have advised that based on their sole discretion, bikes participating in the camp program are tested for noise…(and) must not exceed the 94dBa criteria in order to participate in the rider training program.”
On Monday, Coun. Bruce Gibbon asked staff if the township knew what the actual sound levels coming from the camp are, and whether staff had contacted the camp to find out if anything had changed there this season, and if there was anything the township could do to mitigate the situation.
Township CAO Tom Stockey advised that the camp knew of the complaint and that the camp did test the noise level from the bikes.
“I’d like to get a copy from that,” said Coun. Chidley, referring to the results of sound testing.
After Stockey outlined the noise bylaw for Chidley, the councillor suggested that any noise disturbing Seguin Township residents should be considered a violation.
In reply, Mayor Conn gave an example of what is allowed, such as a person using a chainsaw during the day.
“Let’s keep this in perspective. This is an activity this camp has been doing for 20 years, they bring kids in and teach them to ride bikes,” Conn said, adding that a half-dozen people would probably complain every time the camp has the bikes out.
Conn also reminded council of the civil case before the courts about noise from the camp and suggested the township should find out the status of the suit.
Coun. Osborne took exception to the mayor raising the topic of the legal case and outlined his understanding of where it sits. He also suggested the township should purchase equipment to measure noise coming from the camp.
He then went on to dispute wording in the 2010 agreement with OCD that allows campers, but not the public, to use the motocross track.
“Until they’re registered at camp, they’re public,” he said.
He requested the township “rework” the document so that councillors, with their differing views on the matter, “could be a united front.”
The mayor urged councillors to keep in mind that the camp has a 20-year history of motorcross activities, that the activity doesn’t violate any laws, and that a sound reading of the bikes had been taken in 2009.
“If you had a neighbour on Maple Lake running a chainsaw day after day…you’d probably get annoyed,” retorted Osborne. “I know you say it’s a handful of people, but we still have to consider them.”
Conn then compared the sound of bikes to that of music at township-sanctioned events that run past 11 p.m., with both Osborne and Chidley disagreeing with the comparison.
At this point, Coun. Doug Sainsbury highlighted for his fellow councillors that the township already has an agreement and a bylaw in place to deal with the issue.
“What I don’t want to start at this council is if you don’t agree with something you keep bringing it back up until you get your way,” said Sainsbury, addressing Chidley and Osborne. “This is a democratic society, there are seven of us who make decisions and we’re not going to bring it back until something of significance arrives.”
Osborne retorted that he wasn’t a councillor at the time the agreement was reached between the camp and the township, or when the noise bylaw was put in place, and pointed out that Coun. Gibbon had also voiced concerns.
“We may have a situation here where the camp is outside the memorandum,” said Gibbon. “If we have a racing bylaw and (an agreement) that limits racing, and we have other events that create noise, we have a problem.”
Other noise makers
Again the mayor questioned council, asking how the municipality would control a situation where a person is using a chainsaw, and expanded on that scenario, asking how it would control a contractor crushing rock during business hours.
Chidley said he felt a contractor working during business hours and noise from the camp was an unfair comparison.
“There’s never been a municipality that’s overwritten its own official plan with a MOU,” he said.
“Agreed,” said Conn. “And there still isn’t.”
“We did it,” retorted Chidley.
Osborne also pointed out that what he sees as difference between the camp and a contractor is that the local business did the work during the off-season.
“You guys have a hate on against the camp,” said Conn.
“We don’t hate the camp, we have a problem with racing activity,” said Chidley.
The mayor tried a different tactic to win over Chidley and Osborne. He said that three lawyers had advised council that the township would lose if it took the camp to court over noise levels.
To this, Chidley accused the mayor of only making public advice of lawyers with that opinion, and keeping “another opinion hidden in-camera, and that’s a well-known lawyer – but that’s hidden.”
Township policy, said Conn, keeps legal opinions out of the public record. He voiced his support of the agreement with the camp over heading to court where, if the township lost, it would not have the ability to put any rules in place.
“Do you think courts wouldn’t have rules?” asked Chidley, raising his voice.
“Alex, stop yelling,” said Conn. “You’re going red in the face.”
“No, you’re going red in the face,” said Chidley.
Here Conn leaned forward, focused on Chidley, and raising his voice, called Chidley a “bastard.”
“No, you’re a bastard,” said Chidley, adding that he represents the people, not council.
As council moved on to the next item on the agenda, the talk briefly returned to what had just transpired.
“All that yelling is therapeutic,” said Conn with a chuckle. “I’m glad I got to do it.”
“I’m worried about your health,” said Chidley, mimicking a line Conn had used during an exchange between the two at a previous meeting.
“Get your own lines, Alex,” retorted Conn.
Sainsbury also replied.
“Get a life,” he said.
In an interview with the North Star, Camp of the Deaf director Derek Rumball said he is aware of the noise complaint filed against the camp, stemming from regular camp activities with the kids.
The camp has one scheduled racing event set for October to celebrate 20 years of motorcross at the camp, he said.
And later this month, the camp has a special event planned with its special needs campers to celebrate the camp’s 50th anniversary.