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Jan. 21, 2022 | Friday
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Ombudsman investigating noise problem, St. Davids resident says
The sound panel around a large air conditioning unit at St. David's Cold Storage didn't help with the noise issue, says neighbour Chiara Recine. (Supplied photo/Chiara Recine)

The provincial ombudsman is investigating a complaint about a noisy industrial air conditioning unit at the St. David’s Cold Storage facility, says a Cannery Park resident.

The installation of a sound barrier around a large industrial air conditioning unit outside the facility, has not fixed the problem, said Chiara Recine who said she contacted the Ontario Ombudsman a couple of weeks ago.

“(The investigation) just started. I’ve submitted the information (emails, site plans, a previous story from The Lake Report) that they’ve requested,” Recine said.

Recine, who lives less than 50 metres away from the warehouse on Four Mile Creek Road, said nothing has changed since the sound panel was put up at the end of July.

“The panel went up but the sound is still the same, the vibration is still same,” she said. “The only thing that’s different (is) you can’t actually, physically, see the unit.”

In addition, the noise is also echoing as if “it is contained but echoing upward,” she said. The sound barrier surrounds the air conditioner on two sides. 

The ombudsman office couldn’t confirm if the investigation is ongoing for “reasons of confidentiality,” said Linda Williamson, director of communications.

The facility serves businesses across Niagara Region by providing freezing services and storing food and wine products.

Some Cannery Park residents have complained of a constant noise coming from the outdoor cooling unit, which is used for refrigeration purposes as well as for cooling the facility, and which was installed last year.

St. David’s Cold Storage owner Alfred Dyck declined to comment on the ombudsman’s investigation but in an earlier interview with The Lake Report on July 24, Dyck said the residents were aware of the employment lands near them when they were purchasing their homes.

“We’re allowed to change our site plan and we’re allowed to grow and move as long as we follow the noise guidelines with the town and this what we’ve done.”

Rainer Hummel, who owned the property before selling it to Dyck, echoed Dyck’s comments saying any addition or a change is “simply an amendment to the site plan.”

“And as long as we meet the requirements of all relevant government authorities, we can continue to do so,” Hummel said. “That includes adding condenser units as long as (it is) at our property line, the noise level is below the government limit, we can continue to do that. “

The Ministry of the Environment, Conservation and Parks did not issue any orders against the property, said Gary Wheeler, the ministry’s spokesperson, and the ministry staff visited the site last year to assess the noise in response to the complaints.

“The company advised ministry staff that the company had purchased noise barriers and they were coming,” Wheeler said in response to questions from The Lake Report.

“The environmental officer asked if there were any interim actions the company could take, such as placing shipping containers in front of the unit, which the owner did. Installing this type of equipment is exempt from ministry approvals under the Environmental Protection Act,” Wheeler said.

According to the town’s comprehensive zoning blyaw, ”within an urban boundary, all operating apparatus shall be permitted in the front yard, exterior side yard and rear yards only and be appropriately screened and buffered.”

The bylaw states an operating apparatus means “outdoor mechanical equipment machinery used in conjunction with buildings or structures including but not limited to air conditioners, pool pumps and pool heaters, generators, heat exchangers and compressors.”

The zoning bylaw has been in effect since 2010, said Craig Larmour, town’s director of community and development.

“The cold storage facility has operated in this location for decades,” Larmour said in an email response to The Lake Report. “The air conditioning unit and sound wall weren’t illustrated on the approved site plan.”

“It is possible that the units were installed prior to the August 2010 OMB approval, which may provide their location with legal non-conforming status,” Larmour noted.

Coun. Allan Bisback, who has been addressing residents’ complaints, said there are two sides to every story and he hopes a staff report will provide more clarifications about the site plan and its units. The town couldn’t say when the report, which was supposed to be brought forward in September, will be ready.