Rock blasting to excavate for homes is nothing new for the region, but now that so many people are staying home due to COVID-19, it’s become downright annoying.
That’s the sentiment in Oak Bay as council has directed staff to review West Vancouver’s rock blasting bylaw and come up with some long-term and short-term solutions to mitigate the window of time when blasting is permitted and more.
The West Van model specifically deals with rock breaking and blasting, as a standalone bylaw.
Meanwhile, Oak Bay does not have a rock blasting bylaw of its own, and is mostly controlled under the noise bylaw, noted Coun. Cairine Green. The South Oak Bay resident has fielded plenty of complaints this spring and summer about rock blasting, drilling, scraping, and rumbling, far more than she can remember in prior years, she said.
It’s really an issue due to COVID-19, Green said.
“Because of COVID-19, people are confined, and it’s the cumulative noise that I think is driving people crazy,” Green said. “With people working and schooling from home, homes are the focus of renewed activity.”
West Vancouver’s noise bylaw is according to decibels, Green noted, adding they categorize construction around blasting and rock breaking as consistent and non-consistent noise.
In Oak Bay, blasting is permitted during construction hours which are 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Saturday, not unlike West Van’s (7 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays).
Coun. Esther Paterson wondered if construction noise could be limited to Monday to Friday, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Last year eight of the 235 building permits the District of Oak Bay gave out included blasting, and this year Oak Bay has already had eight. Blasting, drilling, and hoe ramming (which is the act of chipping away the rock with smaller efforts) are typical across the rocky region. Last year Saanich, which has more than five times the population of Oak Bay, had 47 blasting sites included in building permits and has already awarded 21 in 2020, as of July. The City of Victoria had 15 blasting permits in 2018 and 10 in 2019. Some municipalities, such as Langford and Esquimalt, don’t approve blasting permits, as the work is included in the building permit.
The two sites that were complained about in the report are on McNeill and York Place. On McNeill, the slower method of hoe-ramming went on for up to three months while on York Place the footprint of the new home demands significant blasting.
Green also identified the term “continuous noise,” which by the West Van definition is anything beyond three minutes in length. However, the true culprit at the moment is COVID-19, Green said, and how to mitigate the effects of Oak Bay rock blasting.
“The noise is excruciating for people because people are trapped in their homes,” Green said. “We asked staff to look at the West Vancouver bylaw, which is quite a good one, to see what we can do over the short term around noise and the situation, generally, around rock blasting and rock breaking in Oak Bay.”