OPINION: What’s a New Year’s bash without hooting and whistling?

My memories of being an undergraduate student have nothing to do with the classroom, I’m afraid, but with the loud and raucous parties that campus life so generously afforded.

When on those rare occasions I really did need to study or rest, I’d get riled at my over-amped dorm neighbours for living it up instead of turning it down. It’s hard to sleep when your walls are vibrating.

The age-old clash between people having noisy fun and the right to peace and quiet is occurring with increasing frequency in Sarnia’s downtown.

As the historic core’s renaissance continues with new lofts and apartments — not to mention new bars and entertainment venues, friction points are spreading.

The latest is a bash the Refined Fool is planning for New Year’s Eve, which will see a block of Davis Street closed off and given over to outdoor revelry, music, and, of course, a stream of free-flowing brew-ha-ha.

The neighbours are not amused.

Several of them recently contacted city council to oppose the brewery’s application for a noise bylaw exemption, which would allow the party to run till 2 a.m.

The last time an outdoor event was held there it was so loud the residents of a 40-unit seniors’ housing co-op on Victoria Street couldn’t hear their own TVs sets, even with the apartment windows closed and drapes drawn, resident Tommy Douglas says.

Mr. Douglas told council that during other noise-exempted events people had cut across their property “making noise and yelling drunk,” and one tenant was threatened after opening a window to ask partiers to keep it down.

“We don’t care if they want to celebrate New Year’s, but why do they need to have the music so loud that you keep 10 city blocks awake while you do it?” he asked. “That seems pretty selfish and ignorant, if you ask me.”

So, how does a city councillor square that circle?

Our noise bylaw is a strange and toothless thing that prohibits “excessive noise” likely to disturb people, but doesn’t define it. It’s up to an officer to decide what’s excessive.

It classifies most of the downtown as a residential area, where “yelling, shouting, hooting, whistling or singing” is not allowed after 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. (An hour later on Saturdays!).

“Reasonable” amplified music in parks and recreational areas under city management is, however, permitted until 11 p.m.

Which obviously doesn’t work for a New Year’s party. Imagine the poor MC who tried to pull the plug an hour before midnight?

Council did the only reasonable thing and granted the Refined Fool’s request, but scaled it back to 1 a.m. from 2 p.m.

I empathize with Mr. Douglas and his neighbours. I really do. But after decades of quiet listlessness the downtown is once again Sarnia’s social nexus. That means noise, and it’s only going to get louder.