Jaret Jones says his children, like most others, enjoy playing outside and sometimes even make a little noise.
So Jones, who has lived in the Columbia Beach area for approximately a year, says he was quite surprised to recently receive letters calling that noise “unbearable.”
Part of the first letter read: “You have no doubt realized that you moved into a neighbourhood of retired people. Do you hear any noise from anyone else? I didn’t think so.”
In the last month, Jones has looked through his mail and found two postmarked, anonymous letters. Both titled, “Re: Your Noisy Children,” they outline how the noise Jones’s children make while playing in the backyard is making it impossible for the authors to enjoy their own outdoor space.
Jones has two children, aged seven and 10, who have been playing in the backyard a lot during COVID-19 quarantine restrictions. The two boys jump on the trampoline, swim in the pool and hang out in the yard.
“I’ve had bad neighbours before; these people don’t know what bad neighbours and noisy neighbours are if they’re complaining about kids playing,” he said.
“We’re not drinking until 3 a.m. and smashing stuff.”
He’s not sure who sent the letter, and went and talked to his neighbours, who said they also had experience with similar complaints.
“In that neighbourhood, it echoes, I have to say that,” he said. “I talked with our immediate neighbours, and they have all encountered either having bylaws called on them for dogs or anything – there’s a lot of neighbourhood watchdogs that have nothing else to do.”
Tom Armet, manager of building and bylaw services for the Regional District of Nanaimo, said the RDN has not received complaints about this matter.
He said if they did, they would advise the complainant that this sort of noise is generally associated with the lawful enjoyment of one’s property and not what the noise bylaw was intended to prohibit.
“That being said, we would encourage neighbors to try and resolve their differences amicably and in person prior to contacting bylaw services,” he wrote. “We have the following guidance on our website: Often complaints are resolved amicably between neighbors. As a result, and if possible, it is recommended that residents of the Regional District of Nanaimo attempt to resolve their issues before contacting bylaw services for assistance.”
The City of Parksville said they haven’t received any formal noise bylaw complaints related to children recently. However, there is someone in an over-55 complex who calls routinely about the sound of children playing, according to the bylaws department.The Town of Qualicum Beach is in a similar boat – their bylaw department said they had a few complaints of that nature a few years ago, but nothing since.
When asked if he thinks his children are especially loud, Jones said not more than other youngsters who also play in the neighbourhood.
“It could be other kids in the neighbourhood as well, there’s other people that have kids or families visiting,” he said. “They used us as a scapegoat, I guess.”
Jones said his children, 10-year-old Maddox and 7-year-old Gavin, were annoyed to hear about the letters.
“My seven-year-old wrote post-it notes that he wants to send back to them that says they’re being bossy,” he said.
Jones said nothing like this has ever happened to his family – that the letter caught them completely off guard.
At first, he said he was upset that they were targeted since there are numerous families with children in the neighbourhood. Ultimately, he said he realized it was part of what he sees as a larger problem in the area.
“It does kind of highlight an issue in the community here, with the mixture of young and old not always gelling,” he said. “The neighbourhoods go through kind of a cycle… our kids are gonna grow up and leave and we’re going to be the old people sitting on the porch getting angry at kids, I don’t know.”
In terms of if he thinks he and wife Samantha will be sending letters a couple of decades down the line, he said, “I hope not,” with a laugh.