Kathy Gillis (left) and Joanne Newell (right) say that a high-pitched hum emitted from the Summit, a long-term care facility in the Hillside-Quadra neighbourhood, is having negative effects on their mental and emotional well-being. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)

Kathy Gillis (left) and Joanne Newell (right) say that a high-pitched hum emitted from the Summit, a long-term care facility in the Hillside-Quadra neighbourhood, is having negative effects on their mental and emotional well-being. (Nina Grossman/News Staff)

Victoria neighbourhood calling for an end to ‘high-pitched hum’

CRD says Summit long-term care building is compliant with noise bylaws

Two Victoria residents say they’ve been enduring a persistent “hum” since the completion of The Summit, a long-term care facility on Hillside Avenue.

“It gets in my head and my whole disposition changes,” says Joanne Newell. “And I actually just get on my bicycle and leave. I can’t take it.”

Newell and her neighbour, Kathy Gillis, have a list of email addresses and phone numbers from roughly 50 households in the neighbourhood who have also been impacted by the sound, they say.

But the Capital Regional District (CRD), which designed and built the facility on behalf of Island Health, has worked closely with the residents and says decibel readings, both by Victoria bylaw officers and the CRD, are well within acceptable ranges.

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“We are well within compliance of bylaw,” said Michael Barnes, senior manager of health and capital planning strategies at the CRD. “We have also done a check with mechanical to make sure that everything was running efficiently and optimally as a result of some of the complaints we received.”

Barnes said both decibel readings were completed in September.

And Newell and Gillis say those readings weren’t done on hot days, when the sound peaks. They describe it as a “high-pitched hum” caused by a chiller on top of the building. The device becomes audible only when temperatures exceed 18 degrees.

“It was debilitating,” Newell said of the summertime. “Because you get mad, you get sad…it just makes your shoulders go up to your ears. You’re just tense.”

Residents were moved into the Summit, a 320-bed care home at 944 Hillside Ave., in July. The facility replaced the Oak Bay Lodge and Mount Tolmie Hospital. Its opening was delayed several months by COVID-19.

Gillis notes that the impact of the noise they hear was exacerbated by the pandemic, which had many working from home.

“I think for many of us, everyone’s stress was heightened,” she said. “There’s apartment buildings in the area [and] we’ve heard from people there that they couldn’t sit on their balconies, and for many, that’s their most convenient access to nature.”

The neighbours worry that the problem won’t be fixed before temperatures start rising again.

“I think what’s frustrating for us is the pace,” Newell said. “Like how is this all going to be fixed by the spring, is my concern.”

“There’s a lot of goodness to this neighbourhood but it really diminishes it,” she added. “If nothing changes, that idea scares me. Because I can’t live with it. And I will move.”

The CRD is still investigating, according to Barnes, and is working with the manufacturer of the chiller to see if anything else can be done to quiet it.

“We’ve actually since done some tonal adjustments, essentially trying to address the specific hum they’ve heard,” he said. “I’m doing everything I can to try to address their concerns, obviously within reason.”

Barnes said the CRD will try installing ‘baffles’ or ‘blankets’ in an attempt to quiet the chiller.

“It’s very important to the CRD that we’re good neighbours,” he said.

“We’re trying to be as responsive as we can. And then we don’t want there to be something they’re experiencing that’s unpleasant for them.”

In 2018, several residents living near the Heights at Mountain View, a long-term care home operated by Baptist Housing, complained of a “droning” noise emitted from the building, a noise they said worsened with warmer weather.

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