I live near the top of Alpine. My neighborhood is studded with houses containing people who like to have a good time.
It is not uncommon for a neighbor to have raging deck party filled with shrieking ladies and braying guys. It is even more common for somebody to park their car outside with the stereo blasting. In fact the Supreme Court of British Columbia has clearly said that Whistler is a resort town and has different neighborhood noise standards, so one needs to put up with the noise.
Last summer I was sitting with friends watching a movie when some idiot parked in front of my house with his stereo blasting. The bass was thumping, the rhythm guitar was thrashing and the singer was weeping and moaning. I was sure the driver was having a great time with his pals, in what was by far the loudest mobile concert venue to ever park in front of my house. After attempts to overcome the noise by cranking up my stereo, I finally went outside to ask the driver to cool it. Imagine my shock and surprise when I discovered that there was no car outside my house and no stereo blaring nearby. The music, which was by far the loudest that had ever been inflicted on my neighborhood, was coming from the Olympic Plaza.
This year the noise level during concerts has been somewhat lower, but it is still there and it is still irritating. When I read last week that staff had presented a report to council entitled “Whistler Olympic Plaza Concert Sound Levels” and, in the process, stated that there was no significant difference in ambient noise levels in Whistler with or without a concert I knew that was wrong, and wondered whether the report was flawed.
The report attempts to answer the question “what is the effect on sound levels in Whistler of concerts in Olympic Plaza?” The report contains a map showing several places in Whistler where sound levels were measured both before and during concerts. The locations were Olympic Plaza front of house, in Olympic Plaza near the cauldron, Nesters parking, the corner of Fitzsimmons Road and Ambassador Crescent, the Post Office breezeway, the corner of Highway 99 and Lorimer Road and the corner of Whistler Cay Drive and Eagle Drive. The report also contains a table showing the sound levels measured at each location before and during a concert. Remarkably, the table supports the conclusion that at all locations other than the front of house and the cauldron there is no appreciable difference between sound levels before and during a concert.
So why am I and my neighbors hearing the concerts so clearly in Alpine? The answer lies in the explanation of the physics of sound, also included in the report. Sound travels in a straight line, and has a difficult time penetrating objects like buildings and trees. The flaw in the information report is that all of the locations at which sound levels were measured are more or less at the same elevation as the Olympic Plaza. As a result, the sound from a concert must penetrate a dense barrier of buildings, trees and shrubbery to reach the sound meter at each measuring location. Areas of Whistler which are elevated above the valley floor, and there are several, will not be protected by buildings and trees, and will be more exposed to sound.
Most cops have a good BS meter. This council has yet to develop a good BS meter. The way I see it, the concerts have been a smash hit and should continue. When staff reports are presented, council needs to ask whether the methodology makes sense, whether the data is sound and whether the conclusions properly answer the question being posed. If not, council should not hesitate to send the report back for further work. It has been done before.