Administrative law – Decisions of administrative tribunals – Municipal councils – Rules and by-laws – Charter of Rights – Validity of noise by-law – Permits and licences – Renewal of business licence – Judicial review – Jurisdiction – Standard of review – Correctness
1022049 Alberta Ltd. v. Medicine Hat (City),  A.J. No. 320, Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench, March 23, 2005, Erb J.
The Applicant owned and operated a nightclub in the City of Medicine Hat a short distance from two condominium complexes. Noise became an issue for the condominium residents shortly after the nightclub opened for business. Due to the noise, the Respondent City of Medicine Hat refused to renew the Applicant’s business licence. The Applicant brought two applications before the court, the first seeking to set aside the applicable sections of the Medicine Hat noise bylaw on the basis that it offended section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and the second for judicial review of the City’s decision not to renew the Applicant’s business licence.
The court noted that the purpose and intent of the noise bylaw was to control and govern the noise environment in the City of Medicine Hat by establishing acceptable noise levels. The bylaw attempted to regulate sound levels by limiting noise levels as a general prohibition and by establishing specific acceptable decibel limits. In determining whether or not the noise bylaw was void for vagueness under section 7 of the Charter, the court held that the vagueness must be so serious that a court could conclude that a reasonably intelligent man, sufficiently well-informed if the bylaw is technical in nature, would be unable to determine the meaning of the bylaw and govern his actions accordingly. The court noted that the bylaw was a general prohibition but was framed in such a manner that any reasonable, intelligent person could discern what kind of noise was prohibited. Its meaning was understandable and it was not overly broad. Accordingly, the application to declare the bylaw invalid on constitutional grounds was dismissed.
The Applicant’s alternate application for judicial review was based upon the argument that the City exceeded its jurisdiction in refusing to renew its business licence by taking into account irrelevant matters such as the 83 by-law violation charges laid against the Applicant.
The court held that matters of jurisdiction were always questions of law and accordingly, the standard of review was that of correctness. While the licence inspectors and City council were aware that there were charges pending relating to the anti-noise bylaw, evidence was presented that licence inspectors had inspected the Applicant’s premises and had also visited the homes of the condominium residents to assess the noise and its impact. The court held that the consideration for denying the application for a new business licence was not the unproven charges, and that the licensing inspector had just and reasonable grounds for denying the business licence, and that the standard of correctness had been met. The City did not exceed its jurisdiction. The application for an order requiring the City to issue the Applicant a new business licence was denied.
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