Corp Comm Connects

Doug Ford changed the rules on construction hours early in 2020. Toronto councillors want them changed back
July 14, 2021

“It’s a pretty horrific level of sound,” says Terry Mills, by phone, inside his midtown, eighth-floor condo 15 months into the pandemic.

The rental building at 101 Roehampton Ave., sits on a redevelopment site where a 38-storey residential building is actually being grafted onto the existing building.

“By 7:30 in the morning you’ve got the full orchestra of construction going on,” he said. The construction has at times continued well into the evening.

“There are times where they’ll be still going at it at 7:30 at night,” he said.

A new motion at council will ask the province to revoke extended construction hours implemented during the COVID-19 emergency.

Mill’s situation is an extreme example of a citywide reality.

The professional planner, who works from home and wears hearing aids, bought a decibel meter to assess the noise level himself, clocking it as high as 90 decibels inside his apartment. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the U.S. likens that level to a little louder than a gas-powered lawn mower or leaf blower, which after two hours of exposure can cause possible hearing damage, according to the website.

“I find at that level it really starts to effect how well you can even thinkā€¦It’s extraordinary.”

In early April last year, not even a month into the pandemic emergency declaration, the province announced extended hours for construction. A press release premised those new rules on the need to build new health-care facilities.

“During this escalating crisis, we are taking immediate steps to ensure the necessary infrastructure is in place, particularly to properly care for those with severe COVID-19 symptoms and other patients who require critical care,” Premier Doug Ford was quoted as saying in a press release announcing 24/7 allowances for essential construction.

But those regulations also changed the rules for non-essential construction like condos -- something the release makes no mention of -- altering the city’s noise bylaws to permit building noise from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. seven days a week. Under unaltered city rules, construction may only start at 7 a.m. on weekdays and continue until 7 p.m. and from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturdays. Construction noise is typically not permitted on Sundays.

Now, with few new hospitals built in the GTA and as the province begins reopening, it’s city residents like Mills still working from home who are suffering from persistent drilling, hammering and more. The regulation is currently scheduled to be in place until Oct. 7.

Coun. Kristyn Wong-Tam is asking city council this week to request the province repeal the regulation and provide some peace.

“Residents across the city have complained that their mental health and work have suffered from these extended construction hours,” the motion says. “Extending construction hours should have never happened in the first place, but it’s certainly well past time that this decision was reversed.”

In response to Star questions, a spokesperson for Municipal Affairs and Housing Minister Steve Clark said extending hours “is intended to help provide work site managers more flexibility to stagger shifts, limit the number of people in one place, and take reasonable precautions to keep workers safe and healthy under guidelines issued by Ontario’s Chief Prevention Officer for construction sites.”

Those measures, Krystle Caputo wrote, are intended to be temporary.

“The province continues to monitor the situation and may review these regulations depending on how impacts of COVID-19 in Ontario evolve.”

Coun. Josh Matlow, who seconded Wong-Tam’s new motion, previously moved to repeal the provincial regulations last June. Council adopted that request to no avail.

“Doug Ford has used COVID to extend construction hours for his developer friends under the guise of building new hospitals,” Matlow said in a statement. “If he finds another dubious reason to extend this gift to his donors he will be hearing from residents across Toronto who have experienced negative impacts to their quality of life.”

Mills says he has trouble hearing during his online meetings, but feels for parents and those working shift hours who are trying to sleep during the day.

A woman who answered the phone at the headquarters for Arcanos Property Management said they had no comment. Questions sent to a general email were not returned by deadline. The construction company referred comment to Arcanos.