Residents in Sussex, New Brunswick, could face fines for blaring ragtime on their family Victrola.
According to town bylaw 750-12 s.4(i), no person should use a radio, television, public address, phonograph or musical instruments with “such degree in loudness so as to disturb the peace.”
Scott Hatcher, chief administrative officer for the Town of Sussex, said the spirit of these bylaws mainly surrounds the level of disturbance.
In this case, a loud phonograph would violate the town’s noise complaint bylaw and create a nuisance to neighbouring properties.
“I spent all weekend trying to find a stylus for my old phonograph to maybe break that bylaw,” joked Hatcher. “In [the town’s] instance, if you own a piece of property, you are entitled to some piece of enjoyment of your own property without the nuisance of someone else.”
Each local community has a series of bylaws under the province’s Local Governance Act. It allows municipalities to regulate specific issues that they see as necessary, said Hatcher.
In some cases, local governments will advise the public about upcoming or amended bylaws to get their opinions before setting them into law.
Hatcher said Sussex enforces its bylaws through a bylaw enforcement officer, taking care of minor offences like noise complaints, which often come through the phone. The local RCMP handles other issues like animal and traffic control.
“Generally, if you have a noisy party on Friday night, the one noisy party is probably not going to trigger a full-scale enforcement,” said Hatcher. “But, persistent issues over and over will increase the level of severity and perhaps authorization from council to complete the enforcement.”
According to Wayne Knorr, the communications manager for the City of Fredericton, some bylaws, like the phonograph policy, are simply products of their time. He said the provincial capital has its fair share of interesting bylaws.
Article 2.12 of the city’s animal control laws state that no resident shall “have, keep or possess a snake or other reptile upon the street or in any public place” unless it is in a cage. Knorr said this particular law stemmed from an incident a couple of years ago.
“There was someone who had their pet snake and took them out for their walk and it scared people,” said Knorr. “There are certainly people we recognize who have phobias about snakes, and so at the time, the council of the day adopted a bylaw.”
Knorr said certain rules have been on the city’s books for several years, and he acknowledges that some may seem unimportant today.
There’s also a section of the city’s streets and sidewalks bylaw that prohibits horsedrawn buggies on the highway and a 10 p.m. curfew for children under 16.
“Obviously, we recognize that lots of youth come and go now in the course of their studies or their part-time jobs, so it’s less of a concern, but it has a value,” said Knorr, adding that some rules remain in effect should a police officer have to enforce them.
If someone violates a particular law, Knorr said the city tries to avoid fines when it can and let people off with a warning or work out some sort of resolution. Public safety officers play a significant role in educating the public, so some residents don’t know specific laws exist.
Knorr said the city often looks at its bylaws and revisits some of them to see if they can be updated or removed. As for Hatcher, he said he might have to pay a small fine for his own bylaw fracture this weekend.
“I’m hoping to get my phonograph going this weekend, so maybe I might be an enforcement issue on Saturday,” said Hatcher.