After receiving a number of complaints from the public, The Blue Mountains has strengthened the conditions it has placed on a temporary noise bylaw exemption granted to Breaker Technology (BTI)/Astec.
Council made the decision at its meeting on May 10 after a number of neighbouring residents came forward to raise concerns and object to the exemption that would see BTI allowed to operate until 11 p.m. until May 2023. Normally, construction related noise is not allowed between 7 p.m. and 7 am.
Council at its previous committee of the whole meeting had agreed to the exemption subject to two conditions: BTI form a committee with local residents to discuss and attempt to resolve items of concern and noise detection equipment be set up to gather data on the issue.
The committee’s decision generated protests from the local community. Several neighbours spoke directly to council at the meeting, others provided their comments to Clerk Corrina Giles to be read at the meeting and council received two letters objecting to the noise bylaw exemption.
Neighbour Cim Nunn said at the very least BTI should be required to meet council’s conditions before the exemption takes effect.
“I propose that the motion is amended to require BTI to: 1. Make clear the implications of extended allowable hours of operational noise. 2. Share with neighbours, Mayor Soever and council the data from any noise assessments that the company, or anyone acting on the company's behalf, or any agency of any level of government, has already conducted in the past five years. 3. Meet the conditions of the motion before it is permitted to extend its hours,” said Nunn.
Neighbour Tina Edwards also spoke to council and indicated her surprise that such an exemption would even be considered by council.
“I don’t think it’s going to end at 11 p.m. It never has in the past,” said Edwards. “I don’t know who is going to monitor this. I’m at a loss for words, I can’t believe anybody would vote in favour of this.”
Neighbour Alexandra Hall said local residents felt left out of the process.
“A quick door-to-door petition by neighbours to share information on this issue led to over 30 residents expressing their concern and requesting council not to approve this motion,” said Hall. “I am deeply concerned that the process to date has left many residents not engaged and uninformed on this issue and that this will continue to be the case with the amended motion that has been proposed.”
Mayor Alar Soever explained that council’s hope in granting the exemption with conditions was to encourage dialogue between BTI and the neighbours.
“The objective here is to make sure things change for the better,” said Soever. “Through engagement and understanding people’s concerns and people working together you can do far more.”
When it came time to make a decision, councillor Rob Sampson suggested the exemption be amended to require BTI to install the noise detection equipment (with the data made available to the town), establish the community liaison committee and hold a meeting and invite a town observer to the committee meetings before the noise bylaw exemption takes effect. Sampson’s amendment found support at the council table and was approved 6-0, with Deputy Mayor Peter Bordignon absent.
Brad Forrest, Astec Human Resources Manager, said BTI is looking forward to getting the committee set up and working with neighbours to solve any issues.
“We are pleased with the level of support that we have received in the past, and continue to receive from town council and the community. We feel that this temporary exemption affords us the opportunity to maintain safe work practices for our production associates while we continue to explore and implement actions to reduce any impact our operations have on neighbours, including noise generated from our facility,” said Forrest. “We look forward to establishing a committee and hosting an initial meeting where we may communicate actions and activities that we have implemented and are considering. We are also excited to engage in an ongoing manner with our neighbours through this committee, who we know can share ideas and suggestions on how to achieve a more balanced coexistence.”
BTI's initial request was for special permission to generate noise until 11 p.m. Monday to Friday.
The company, which has manufactured mining and construction equipment in TBM for over 60 years, commonly generates noise when moving materials and products to and from the storage yard.