From The Gazette

Beaconsfield

Beaconsfield to let homeowners build their own sound walls along Highway 20

  • Mike Iacovelli wants his backyard to be quieter.
    Mike Iacovelli wants his backyard to be quieter.
    Photo credit: Navneet Pall, The Gazette)

As a last-ditch effort after years of fruitless debate over a sound barrier, Beaconsfield is proposing a bylaw to allow residents to erect and pay for their own do-it-yourself backyard acoustic walls along Highway 20.

Last week, city council adopted a notice of motion for a proposed bylaw to allow homeowners along Highway 20 to build noise barrier — from walls to berms — and to set up rules to govern issuing permits for such DIY projects.

When called by The Gazette last Friday afternoon for reaction, longtime Beaurepaire Drive resident Mike Iacovelli was unable to talk on the phone from his backyard due to the highway noise and had to come indoors. He is glad council has heeded a suggestion he made over a year ago to allow private sound walls. However, he maintains it should be the responsibility of the city and province to build a continuous barrier along the highway, adding traffic and noise levels have increased immensely sine he purchased his home 40 years ago.

A few years ago, Iacovelli had obtained estimates from a contractor to build his own sound wall, one option was quoted at about $25,000 and another one was priced at almost $33,000.

He added the DIY price tag would still be far less than the figure the city quoted him in a survey sent out last year to gauge if select residents living in the vicinity of the highway would be willing to pay a local improvement tax over 20 years. The vast majority of those who responded to the survey said No.

“It’s a lot of money for an individual to spend, but the way the city was figuring out when they wanted us to pay for (a sound barrier) was going to cost me $46,000 and that was for 50 per cent of the cost,” he said. “So they were going to pay $92,000 for something I was going to pay $32,000 for. How does that make sense?”

Iacovelli doesn’t think city officials adequately lobbied the province to cover more than 50 per cent of the cost.

“I’m convinced it’s never going to happen,” he said of a government/city funded sound wall in Beaconsfield.

Iacovelli acknowledges not every homeowner would be willing or able to fork over about $30,000 for a private sound wall in their backyard or to use part of their own property, but he said he is willing to finance it.

“I’m happy now that I will have the option,” he added. “The only thing is now I have to come up with $40,000 basically to build it. I’ll do what I have to.

“If it’s going to work, if it’s going to give me 10-per-cent less noise, I’m willing to build it,” he said, acknowledging private walls won’t work as well if adjacent neighbours don’t follow suit in their own backyards.

His backyard is currently protected from the highway with a high wooden fence to which he has added some makeshift soundproofing.

During last week’s council meeting, one resident demanded to know why the city doesn’t pay for berms all along the highway, such as the one across from the public works yard on Beaurepaire Drive.

Mayor David Pollock mentioned that there was not sufficient space to place berms on all properties along the highway, especially if it is to be set on private land as proposed in the draft bylaw.

Resident Derrick Pounds, a vocal sound wall proponent, told the mayor the proposed DIY acoustic wall bylaw would be pointless. “What’s the use of that?” he said, suggesting it would create eyesores and that decibel levels wouldn’t be reduced by much if only a few homeowners erected backyard barriers, especially considering these would be located too far from the highway to make a substantial difference.

Councillor Wade Staddon said council has gone full circle on the issue in recent years, adding the DIY sound barrier option was raised by a resident who had asked the city why private walls could not be permitted. He said enabling private walls isn’t council’s preferred option but the proposed bylaw would at least set standards to ensure quality, effectiveness and uniformity.

“It’s the only (option) available to us,” Staddon said, mentioning the community at large doesn’t wish to pay extra for a noise barrier and the province isn’t willing to absorb the entire bill of a sound wall project if one would be requested by the city. “We are giving anyone who is interested the power to do (their own sound barrier),” he added.

A resident can’t place a sound barrier right next to the highway, only Transport Quebec could do that, Staddon said in response to a question.

Councillor Rhonda Massad, who plans to run for mayor this fall, said the city is better off establishing rules for private sound walls because people may begin erecting them regardless since there is no other viable financial option for the city. She mentioned she has had several requests from homeowners who are willing to pay for their own backyard barrier, considering a fully-funded Transport Quebec wall is not forthcoming.

The draft bylaw proposes to allow acoustic walls to stand 4.5 metres without an embankment. On a 1.5-metre embankment with a grade of no more than 30 per cent, a wall could be three metres in height. As well, one side of the wall must be made of materials that can absorb sound and reduce noise. Only properties contiguous to Highway 20 would be permitted to have sound walls. The walls must be made of a PVC material and be a solid grey colour. Homeowners would also have to ensure their sound walls are well maintained and are free of graffiti.

A public consultation meeting dealing with the proposed DIY acoustic wall bylaw will be held Aug. 19 at 7:30 p.m.

Beaconsfield’s past attempts at having a sound wall built

Last year, Beaconsfield surveyed select homeowners to determine if they would be willing to pay a local improvement tax over 20 years to fund half of a potential $24-million 4.5-metre-high sound barrier along the south side of Highway 20. Close to 90 per cent of residents who replied to the poll said No.

In 2010, Beaconsfield had called on the province to foot the entire bill but to no avail, with Transport Quebec sticking to its 50-50 cost sharing formula to build a sound barrier for the south side of Highway 20. Prior to that resolution, Transport Quebec, at Beaconsfield’s request, had conducted sound survey regarding highway traffic and concluded noise levels along Beaurepaire Drive were above the acceptable standard of 65 decibels. The city maintains the noise pollution comes from the highway, which is a provincial jurisdiction.

Last December, Beaconsfield requested the Montreal regional health board study the issue of noise pollution emanating from highway traffic and from trains which pass by along Elm Ave.

Last summer, a council resolution, with the hope of reducing decibel levels, demanded, in vain, that Quebec reduce the posted speed limit on Highway 20 and install photo radar.

9 comments

  1. why am I not surprised with Beaconsfield council approving DIY sound barriers? Beaconsfield residence should withhold their tax dollars and force them to put up the barrier themselves. then they can ask council why they would charge a non-profit organization $8/child to play soccer on the worst pitches in the West Island. Totally Despicable!! maybe Lakeshore Soccer should walk away from Beaconsfield and tell the residents of Beaconsfield to organize their own Soccer Club.
    sorry wrong forum for tis, but Beaconsfield council annoys me with every decision they make.

  2. By Derrick Pounds

    Thanks, Albert Kramberger, for your objective report on the attempts to solve the aggravating issue of excessive noise in Beaconsfield.

  3. I do not have $30 000 to spend on a wall. My neighbours going down my street (south) will benefit from the wall I would erect but they don’t have to pay anything for it. There are pieces along Beaurepaire Drive that belongs to the city and this city owned property is next to mine so I will have a short wall and then nothing next to it. No point. We must take them to court.

  4. The proposed sound wall that residents rejected last year was a ‘vegetative wall’ and the cost projections were incomplete. Council wanted residents to give the city carte blanche as to costs. Of course 90% rejected it!

  5. By Jane Marcuse

    The Province never pays more than 50%, of any sound wall, and therefore the City would have to borrow to finance it. Unfortunately, most citizens not directly effected would refuse this in a Borrowing Referendum. It would cost each taxpaying house hold approximately $1000.00, which could be spread over 10 years. It seems a small price to pay for the people who are effected 24 hours a day, to give them peace of mind.
    Many people say, if the home owners effected by the noise don’t like it, why did they buy there in the first place? When many of them bought their homes the road bed was much lower and the noise was half of what it is today. If borrowing the money to erect a sound barrier is not feasible, then perhaps joining together with other West Island municipalities, such as Pointe Claire in a class action suit against the Province is ?
    Jane

  6. Property Owners Stop Complaining and Pay for it. You moved next to a highway and now you want to pass the buck? Besides, the city gave permission to build your own wall, a great investment and will give your property more value. Be grateful and stop complaining!

  7. By lewis heilig

    Published in the WestIsland insert of today’s Gazette was a comment from a reader suggesting that homes in Beaconsfield located further away from the Autoroute 20 should share in the costs of a sound wall based on the reasoning that they are already receiving the noise to a certain degree and that they would also benefit from a wall. There is a section along Autoroute 40 near where I live which also has homes bordering the autoroute (near the movie theatre) and for the past 20 years I have observed the lack of reduction of traffic noise following the construction of all the multi-story condo buildings that have been added next to the autoroute. Unfortunately, sound barriers only benefit the homes located very close to the walls. The problem is that traffic sends noise in all directions and much of the sound still passes above the potential barriers, hundreds of feet in the air. As the sound travels even further away from the highway, it begins to propagate in all directions creating a diffraction effect like spreading ripples on a pond. Eventually the noise approaches the ground level again. So unless the wall is several hundred feet high, the traffic noise will always be evident several blocks from any autoroute. Asking people who live on nearby streets to pay for a benefit that they will never receive is unfair. I am surprised that the residents of Kirkland and Beaconsfield who live near the St-Marie overpasses of Autoroute 40 have never complained and organized to the degree as those living along Autoroute 20 in Beaconsfield . I’ve measured the traffic noise at over 60 decibels in my backyard on St-Tropez Street and it is every bit as bad as found at homes in Beaconsfield at a similar distance from Autoroute 20. Had the wind been blowing from the west (dominant direction) on the day I purchased. I would never have bought here. The only solution that benefits all is lowering the speed limit on the highway.

  8. By Kevin Matthews

    I don’t think that it is up to Beaconsfield to pay for the sound wall. It wasn’t there fault that the speed limits were raised and that traffic increased. If there was an unacceptable amount of noise coming from my property I would have to stop the noise from bothering my neighbors. I figure because we are neighboring the 20 it should be there responsibility to lower the sound levels. They are the ones collecting tax dollars so all the other drivers that pass should be accountable for the noise, via Transport Quebec. After all it was them that that increased the speed limit through Beaconsfield. It is 70km from Dorion to St. Annes and then back down to 70km in Dorval, a distance of about 10km.

  9. By Kevin Matthews

    For the people that say we bought here so we should live with it should inform themselves first!!! Most of the homes were built when the speed limits were 70km and sound levels were much lower.

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