Outdoor rink prompts noise complaint

A group of neighborhood residents recently requested approval from Virden’s Town Council to establish an outdoor recreational skating rink on vacant land next to the Bolton Place complex on Thomas Drive. 

At a Public Hearing during the Oct. 19 meeting, councillors heard support for the endeavor as well as concerns regarding the noise created by hockey pucks slapping against the boards. Coun. Travis Penner, whose company owns the lot, submitted the variation application. He declared a conflict and withdrew from the council table in order to speak on the matter. “This rink has existed there for three years,” he said. “Brett (Braybrook) and Robin (Rampton) have spent hundreds of hours every year building this rink, maintaining it, and keeping it clear. For the kids in the neighborhood, it’s just an excellent facility to give them some outdoor exercise, and I think it’s especially important now in this time of COVID, with the restrictions on public facilities, to have something like this. It was never meant to create a nuisance of any kind so we’re a little sorry to hear that there’s a noise issue.” He urged his fellow councillors to support it. 

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In his presentation, Development Officer Cory Nixon referenced a letter signed by about 40 Bolton Place residents. “We believe the proposed rink would be an incredible asset to the community of Virden,” they wrote. “Every winter we see the younger generation looking for ways to spend their free time and what better way for the younger residents (of this area) than to have access to a hockey rink.” Maxine Heritage, who lives across the street from the site, is also behind the project. “I used to play street hockey when I was a kid,” she said. “When that puck hits the boards, it doesn't bother me at all. I think it’s wonderful that these people have taken the initiative to put up that rink.”

Charlie Main, who lives in Bolton Place, said that although he supports the setup of the rink in principle, he finds the incessant noise intolerable. “The problem is the nuisance of it,” he said. “I get the noise and commotion all day long, whenever someone's out there skating, and all evening. I moved to a residential area for seniors (and) I did not expect this…like I would not expect a hog barn to go up beside me.”    

Main said that last winter he approached people skating on the rink and asked them to tone it down. He speculated that his fellow residents have backed it because the sound doesn’t bother them or they do not hear it as intensely as he does.      

Coun. Grant Gardiner asked if the placement of insulation on the outer walls of the rink was considered in order to act as a buffer. Rampton responded that different prototypes of boards have been created and are being tested to see how well they absorb the sound. “We’ve tried three-quarter-in. plywood with two-in. styrofoam sandwiched against it on the outside, as well as oriented strand board and different thicknesses of rubber matting,” he said. “We’ve done different sound tests on these products to see what helps and what doesn’t.”

Jack Cameron suggested that the recreational vehicles which were formerly parked next to the Bolton Place building may have done the job in past seasons, as there were no complaints while they were there.   

Coun. Whitney Wright sympathized with Main’s concerns. “In all honesty, that’s a long winter for him, if it really bugs him,” she said. “He didn’t move in with the intention of that being there.”She praised those involved for their efforts in mitigating the problem. 

Nixon explained that the outdoor rink is considered an accessory use in a residential two-family zone and requires an approved variation to make it legal. Violations would be dealt with under the Town’s Nuisance By-Law, which is enforced by the RCMP. He noted that the by-law does not address operating hours. “We don’t regulate hours for noises other than construction work and motorized vehicles,” he said. “Either it is a prohibited noise, an allowed noise or a nuisance noise.” He told councillors that they have the option of revoking the variation at a later date if deemed necessary.

The operation of the outdoor rink will be permitted, with the stipulation that the lights be shut off no later than 10:00 p.m. as is the case with the Chevron Community Rink at the Virden Junior High School.       

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