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Noise Ordinance Violations

New York City Noise Ordinance Violations at Construction Sites

New York State’s Department of Environmental Protection has begun enforcing the law regarding noise ordinance violations, particularly when it comes to construction noise in Manhattan. The latest noise mitigation guidelines, in effect since July 2008, are the first changes to New York State noise ordinances in more than 30 years and call for noise abatement solutions to be applied to construction equipment operating within earshot of New York City’s general public (Section 28-101 – Required Noise Mitigation Measures for General Construction).

The ordinance, which can be found here in its entirety, demands noise abatement or sound blocking material at every construction site within New York City. As it applies to City construction sites, the law requires each construction site to be equipped with sound abatement fencing material that meets a Sound Transmission Class (STC) of 30 or higher.

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Acoustical Fencing

Where a construction fence is in place, (Section 28-107 Perimeter Noise Barriers) compliance can be met by installing AcoustiFence 1/8-inch (3mm) thick sound deadening material. Measuring 6-feet (1.82 meters) high by 30-feet (9.14 meters) long with mounting grommets along the top and bottom edge for easy attachment to any chain link fence or other framework. AcoustiFence, when installed properly, can bring construction sites within the City into compliance by meeting he 30 STC noise barrier rating.

Additionally, the ordinance requires construction fencing to be limited to 15-feet in height and to block the line of sight to the receptor. AcoustiFence can be used as a temporary or permanent noise barrier (Section 28-108 Temporary or Portable Noise Barriers) and is reusable, which means it can be rolled up and taken to another area of the City and re-used to meet noise ordinances anywhere a sound barrier is required. The AcoustiFence material is a proprietary viscoelastic polymer material with a high=density mineral content, heavy yet extremely flexible and impervious to mold, mildew and UV.

New Requirements

New York contractors are now required to develop noise mitigation plans before work can begin on any project and special mitigation plans must be established for particularly sensitive areas near hospitals and churches. Construction activity must be limited to the hours of 7AM to 6PM, Monday through Friday, and 10AM to 4PM on weekends, unless public safety necessitates an alternative.

Excerpted from:

New York City’s Construction Noise Ordinance: Rules of Compliance

St. Maarten’s Westin Must Pay $39,500 for Noise Ordinance Violations

The Caribbean paradise that is St. Maarten has been the focus of some pretty surprising litigation based on violations of noise ordinance laws against a Westin Hotel, owned by the Babitbay Beach Development Corporation N.V. of Fort Mitchell, Kentucky. The company’s Westin Hotel in St. Maarten’s Dawn Beach was slapped with $39,500 in fines and penalties in a court ruling earlier this week after disregarding court orders to lower the decibel levels of its sewage treatment plant, which has been making life miserable for the Michael Roger family, whose home is just 260 feet away from the plant.

In a nutshell, Roger built his Dawn Beach home 20 years ago in 1992, long before the Westin Hotel happened upon the scene. In fact, the hotel wasn’t built until 2006, and its sewage treatment plant went in that same year – 260 feet away from the Roger family home. Michael Roger has been trying to get something done about the unbearable noise that reaches 90 decibels and higher resonating from the sewage treatment plant to his home ever since.

The court ruled this week, after years of contentious back and forth between Westin attorneys and Roger’s attorney, that the Westin had not lived up to an April 13 court ruling that ordered the hotel to take whatever measures were necessary to remedy the sewage treatment plant’s industrial noise pollution problem.  After six years of battling to regain some semblance of peace and quiet in his home, Mr. Roger might finally be close to achieving that goal.

The noise from the Westin sewage treatment plant, according to court documents, is deafening; so deafening that the Roger family is forced to stay inside with doors, windows and hurricane shutters closed – and even then, the noise is overbearing, according to Roger. Over the past six years, as his noise complaint snaked through the legal channels, Mr. Roger moved his home’s terrace to the opposite side of the house, and moved one of his children to a bedroom at the other end of the home because the noise was preventing the child from sleeping.

It’s not like the April 13 ruling came as a surprise to Westin owners either. In June, 2011, the court ordered an expert report on the Westin’s sewage treatment plant’s noise pollution levels. By October of last year, the report was still not completed, so Rogers contracted a civil environmental and geotechnical engineer to perform the sound levels tests on his property and the vicinity around the plant. All measurements taken proved that sound levels from the Westin sewage treatment plant continued to significantly exceed the hotel’s permitted noise limit of 50 decibels, and a second study performed by the court-appointed engineering firm confirmed the first study’s findings.

Somewhere along the line, Westin owners had a structure installed around the sewage treatment plant, and they began turning the pumps off at night, which they felt should satisfy any noise complaints. However, even with the structure in place, noise from the sewage treatment plant was recorded at 80-90 decibels, far above the 50 decibel limit they had been court ordered to establish and maintain. The World Health Organization says that exposure to decibel levels about 70 for eight or more hours per day can lead to hearing loss, high blood pressure and other serious health problems.

The Rogers family has been exposed to these noise levels daily for six years – only within the last year did the Westin begin to shut down the plant at night.

So, after years of battling in court, and after two engineering studies proved Rogers’s complaint to be valid, a St. Maartens judge on April 13 of this year ordered Westin owners once and for all to get the decibel levels down to 50 or lower, or face fines and penalties of $500 per day.

Westin attorneys never showed up to that April hearing, nor did they attend another hearing held in June, a decision that was not overlooked by the judge.

“(The absence of Westin Hotel representatives in court) makes it sufficiently clear that the Westin, even after it received the (engineer’s) reports, does not really care about its noise pollution,” the judge said.

Last month, Westin owners finally became actively involved in the legal process only after discovering that Roger had put a lien on the hotel’s bank account, a move he made to secure the hotel’s mounting fines and penalties – which by now added up to $39,500. Westin attorneys filed a lawsuit against Rogers demanding that he stop the execution of the April 13 court ruling. In last week’s summary proceedings, Westin attorneys also demanded the penalty be reduced to zero, and that Roger be forced to lift the lien on the Westin’s bank account.

Westin attorneys appeared outraged that the hotel owner was being harassed by Roger and the court, as if woken from a deep sleep and previously unaware that there was a problem at all. They had, after all, built a structure around the sewage treatment plant and they began switching the thing off at night. They felt they had done enough, despite the engineering reports that recorded noise still 30-40 decibels over the court mandated limit.

The judge was unsympathetic, and referred to video footage submitted by Roger that proved the 80-90 decibel sound levels were still permeating the area surrounding the sewage treatment plant – most specifically, Roger’s property and home. The court ruled that the Westin had not abided by the April 13 ruling and rejected the Westin attorneys’ demands to drop the fines and penalties they had been warned about in April. It also refused to lift Rogers’s lien against the Westin’s bank account.

Further requests to mitigate the penalty were also denied.

This is not the only court-related noise problem the Dawn Beach Westin is facing either.

Last week, the St. Maarten Hospitality and Trade Association (SHTA) President Emil Lee won a court case against the hotel after he was banned from its premises because of pending lawsuits filed against the hotel over noise pollution caused by the Westin’s generator and its cooling towers. The court decided in Lee’s favor, ruling that the Westin cannot ban the community leader from its property.

After six years of ignoring the complaints of the Roger family and others over its noise pollution violations, Westin owners got a wake-up call straight to their proverbial wallet last week, and are finally realizing that they must comply with local noise ordinances or face serious consequences. It took extreme measures on the part of Roger, who worked through the legal channels and managed not to give up along the way.

And it took extreme measures on the part of the court as well; by refusing to lift the lien on the hotel’s bank account put in place by the neighbor it had ignored for six years, and the court’s refusal to lower the fines and penalties, the message sent to Westin owners is clear.

It will be interesting to see if the Westin drags its feet on its pending generator and cooling tower noise pollution litigation after this tough love measure by the courts.

Until very recently, most people have taken it for granted that noise ordinances are rarely (if ever) enforced, and that noise polluters could carry on without consequence, despite growing evidence of the health risks to those exposed to continuous high decibel noise. However in recent years, courts have begun ruling in favor of the rights of individuals to peace and quiet, especially in their own homes. Rogers fought for six years for this right, and won.

The craziest part is that Westin owners could have saved themselves so much money and so many headaches if it had simply installed an effective noise abatement barrier around the sewage treatment plant to begin with, instead of throwing up a structure that did nothing to lower the decibel levels. Perhaps they thought they were saving money and appeasing the court by simply appearing to comply. But with no real regard for actual soundproofing qualities in the barrier installed, and by continuously ignoring court dates and deadlines for compliance, the Westin owners dug themselves into a deep financial hole that they could have easily avoided.

Passionate Australian Couple Charged with Noise Ordinance Violations Under EPA Act

An Australian couple could have saved themselves a lot of money and neighborly discord had they looked into installing noise abatement material in their Adelaide home before moving in. Instead, they’ve been hauled off to jail and face fines of $4,000, a figure that will most likely increase with court costs. The relentless noisemaking of Colin MacKenzie, 45 and Jessie Angel, 34 has left the pair demonized by their traumatized neighbors, and a local newspaper poll received almost 10,000 votes from Australian readers who agreed with the police decision to arrest the noisy pair.

They weren’t playing their stereo too loud, and they weren’t fighting. They just happen to be a particularly demonstrative and vocal pair of lovebirds who, according to Colin, spend up to seven hours a day showing each other their love.

But their neighbors aren’t feeling the love, and have been complaining to police about the high decibel sounds that keep them awake all night, and shocked, embarrassed, and slightly grossed out all day.

Colin is quick to blame his partner, despite the fact that both stand accused of “screaming, loud moaning, swearing and raising their voices.”

“It is mostly Jessie,” he told a Perth reporter. “Our average (shenanigans) goes anywhere from four, six, seven hours, basically five nights a week.”

“That’s pretty much why I am asleep at six o’clock in the afternoon,” Colin continued. “I will probably die of a heart attack, she is almost killing me as it is.”

Jessie, Colin’s soul mate and partner in environmental crime, apparently had a rare burst of silence upon hearing Colin’s concern for his heart.

Although studies show that repeated exposure to loud noise can cause heart attacks, roadway traffic and industrial noise are largely the noise sources researchers blame.

However, Colin insists he is not repentant about their behavior, even though police were called to their home 20 times between April and August for excessive noise complaints. In fact, the noise coming from the couple’s love nest repeatedly exceeded EPA noise standards, making them the first to be charged with offenses under the Environmental Protection Act as a direct result of noisy love making.

Jessie is the one who has been formally charged by the EPA for breaching the community’s peace and quiet.

After paying 20 visits to the home in just four months, the last few visits – on a recent Sunday night and twice the following Tuesday – resulted in the couple being charged with disturbing the public peace and hindering an environmental protection officer.

“We exceeded the noise pollution (limits) to the point we were arrested and taken out of our own house and told we couldn’t have sex,” a stunned Jessie told the Perth reporter. And as they began their journey through noise pollution regulation hell, the story made national and international news.

Here’s the sequence of events that led to their arrest:

When police were called out on Sunday night at 7:30, Jessie, (deemed by police to be the loudest of the two) was issued an official emergency Environment Protection Order by police:

Apparently Jessie didn’t take it seriously because police were back on Tuesday morning on a new noise complaint. The two were fined $315 for breaching Sunday’s order and given another warning to be quiet. Stunningly, police were called back at 3:30 Tuesday afternoon and the couple, who had by now worn themselves out and fallen asleep, had to be woken up by police to arrest them.

Both were formally charged with breaching the peace, made bail, and went home with orders to appear in Adelaide Magistrates Court next month.

Both Jessie and Colin wonder why their neighbors didn’t simply knock on their door and complain to them personally instead of calling the police. It is not uncommon for people to be hesitant about complaining directly to their noisy neighbors, for fear of an unfriendly reaction or in this case, fear of never catching the couple at the, er, right time. Still the couple feels the complaints were malicious, and wonder if a neighbor or police actually measured the decibel levels of their vocalizations with a decibel meter.

The local police chief said that they don’t like being the killjoys in this situation, and they do believe that people have the right to privacy within their own home. But when their actions have an impact on others, police have no option but to step in.

“In the past, police have been called to this property and warnings were issued,” the police chief said. “On this occasion police had been called earlier in the day, so when they were called back they took steps to ensure neighbors got a good night’s sleep.”

Noise-related sleep deprivation is a growing problem worldwide, and studies have linked it with long term health problems. However, studies of people suffering from noise-related sleep problems and secondary health issues caused at least in part by sleep deprivation have no known cases of sleep impairment caused by amorous neighbors.

One of Colin and Jessie’s neighbors who was woken early Tuesday when he said he “heard screams.” described the disturbance:

“It was quite loud and they sounded very obscene,” he said.

No one asked Colin, Jessie, or the neighbors if anyone had looked into noise reduction solutions that could alleviate a lot trouble for all involved.

We’ll keep you posted on any follow-up.

No Kill Animal Shelter Summons Police Over New Neighbor’s Noise

Eighteen years ago, the West Columbia Gorge Humane Society set up its no-kill animal shelter on Index Street in Washougal, a community about 20 miles east of Vancouver, Washington, and began the task of caring for the area’s homeless dogs and cats. The location made sense, as Index Street is in an industrial park and noise from barking dogs at the shelter would not be a problem.

Five months ago a company called Northwest Underwater Construction moved in next door and, upon hearing the shelter’s six resident dogs barking, installed a horn that blasts a high-pitched siren at the shelter every time a dog barks. The volunteer shelter workers claim the siren shrieks every time a truck drives past too, creating a nightmarish state of almost constant blaring noise from the horn aimed directly at them, and the new neighbors responsible for the horn refuse to even discuss its removal.

With noise from the horn blasting unmercifully throughout the day, shelter volunteers and staff are at their wits end. The horn is designed to train dogs not to bark by blasting its siren at every bark. Some people question its effectiveness, since the horn’s blaring comes from an adjacent yard and not the shelter where the dogs live. Additionally, the shelter dogs are but transient guests, staying only until they can be adopted and then a new dog will take its place. Can the horn be effective under these cisrcumstances?

Mostly, the noise emanating from the horn behind the Northwest Underwater Construction Company is heaping stress on shelter volunteers who say the noise is more than they can take. Mark Fruechtel, a shelter board member and a volunteer with the West Columbia Gorge Humane Society, said he and a few other volunteers went and spoke with staff at the Northwest Underwater Construction about the shrill horn noise that was making their work and lives harder with each passing day. Fruechtel said he thought they had reached a friendly understanding after he explained the impact the horn’s noise was having on shelter staff to his new neighbors, but he must have been mistaken.

The horn blasts so frequently, shelter representatives have had to get the Washougal Police Department involved. They also hired an acoustical professional to conduct a sound measurement study, which found that passing trucks are registering higher decibel levels than the dogs’ barking. In the meantime, folks next door at Northwest Underwater Construction have hidden the horn from view and placed it on the ground aimed squarely at the shelter.

No one at Northwest Underwater Construction will talk to reporters who have been trying to get their side of the story, and apparently they’re not interested in the potential health effects of the horn’s constant blaring on the shelter staff.

Constant exposure to noise like the blaring from the Northwest Underwater Construction site’s dog obedience horn has been found to cause stress and elevated blood pressure in humans and animals. It is also blamed as a contributor to noise-induced sleep deprivation, which comes with a laundry list of health risks. These implications are in addition to the detrimental impact the horn’s blast can have on the shelter staff’s hearing. It can exacerbate existing conditions including depression, and studies are even showing that ongoing exposure to noise above 70 decibels can cause more serious health problems – including an increased risk of heart attacks.

Video recorded in the back of the shelter gives viewers a taste of the shrill, high-pitched blast that sometimes shrieks unabated for 30 minutes or more. Fruechtel says that the folks over at Northwest Underwater Construction explained that they installed the horn because they were fed up with the sounds of the dogs barking.

Moving in next door to an animal shelter that’s been functioning in the same spot for 18 years has Fruechtel and others wondering what the new neighbors expected upon their arrival, you know, five months ago.

Since September, the shelter has filed two noise complaints against Northwest Underwater Construction with the Washougal Police Department, as they were instructed to do by the Chief of Police, Ron Mitchell. Mitchell says that if the horn is found to be disturbing the peace or in violation of any city code, Northwest Underwater Construction could be facing a $250 fine.

In some estimations, that should be the least of the company’s worries, as they seem to have done their best to prove themselves to be inhospitable neighbors at best. Actions speak louder than words, and it seems Northwest Underwater Construction  isn’t interested in being a good neighbor to the volunteers who care for the community’s abandoned and homeless animals day in and day out, as they have done for 18 years.

It’s understandable that constant dog barking can get on anyone’s nerves, and under different circumstances Northwest Underwater Construction may have had a lot of peoples’ sympathy. But I have to agree with shelter staff when they question Northwest Underwater Construction’s choice to move into an industrial park, right next door to an animal shelter

What I find particularly egregious is Northwest Underwater Construction’s complete lack of consideration for the well-being of the shelter volunteers who are subjected to this high pitched horn hour after hour, day after day. Noise pollution is a serious problem in the U.S. and worldwide, and it’s making people sick. It’s disheartening that this company feels it has the right to move into an industrial park next door to an animal shelter and proceed to blast a siren-like horn at the staff of volunteers, even after they’ve been told of the effect it’s having on the shelter staff.

Chief Mitchell says he hopes to have some answers regarding the Northwest Underwater Construction horn’s future within a week or so. Hopefully, the company’s leaders will come to its senses and remove the offending horn without the police chief having to persuade them to. Hopefully they’ll realize the harm their horn could be doing to shelter workers, and do the right thing.

Trial Continues in Naughty Cockatoo Noise Ordinance Violations

Part of the unpleasantness of noise pollution and noise in general is the violent undertones it often takes on. Particularly when it’s the kind of noise that comes from a potty mouthed Cockatoo who was trained to squawk high decibel insults at its owner’s ex-husband’s new girlfriend. That’s right, the seemingly not-over-the-ex-yet bird owner Lynne Taylor stands accused of training her pet bird to loudly curse the newest of her ex’s love interests.

What began as a seemingly innocent prank to torment the new girlfriend got out of hand when it turned out that the smart bird (named “Willy”) excelled at diction, screeching foul-mouthed insults at the new girlfriend with perfect elocution. It is enough to make a sailor blush according to Taylor’s ex-husband Craig Fontaine and his girlfriend, Kathleen Melker.

Willy has been making the neighbors blush and more, and it escalated to a noise ordinance violation in the trio’s Warwick, Rhode Island community that resembles the traffic accident that you know you should just drive past but you can’t stop staring.

The woman who trained the Cockatoo to swear with gusto is now heading to trial to fight a $15 noise ordinance ticket she was issued. According to the Providence Journal, the bird is disturbing Taylor’s next door neighbors, Fontaine and Melker. That’s right – she’s living next door to the ex-husband and his new girlfriend.

This is a terrible idea, for the record.

In the formal complaint on file at the Warwick City Clerk’s office, the bird “squawked a lot, and used profanity, including the phrases “f***ing whore” and “f***ing slut,” aimed at Melker.

Both Fontaine and Melker believe that Taylor trained the bird to become a hostile. foul-mouth noise maker for the express purpose of harassing Melker.

Did I mention they live next door to each other?

Relations between the neighbors have deteriorated to a new low: Fontaine and Melker have obtained restraining orders against Taylor, and Taylor in turn has taken out restraining orders against Melker and Melker’s cat.

“Our life basically is hell,” Melker told ABC News. “We have no quality of life. We can’t go out in our yard, we have no peace.”

Taylor is not talking to reporters or anyone else writing about the controversy.  But her attorney, Stephen Peltier, told ABC News that Melker’s cat repeatedly trespassed in Taylor’s yard, provoking the bird.

Peltier agrees that the potty-mouth bird is a noisy fellow, but insists that the area’s seagulls and Taylor’s own wind chimes are louder than Willy.

Taylor had her first day in court last week over the $15 ticket, which went to a hearing in Warwick municipal court . Witnesses were called to testify and evidence was presented.

There were videos.

Melker calls the trial “frivolous.”

Melker claims that Taylor has been harassing her for more than a year – ever since Melker moved in with Fontaine – you know, next door to Melker. Taylor and her boyfriend have been accused of trapping the trespassing cat and locking it in the back of a hot box truck.

This just can’t end well.

Noise violations often escalate into violence. While nothing has been said about Willy’s noise being loud enough to impair hearing, other symptoms of noise-related health issues are surfacing including stress, elevated blood pressure, and sleep deprivation.

Peltier defends the decision to take Taylor’s $15 noise violation ticket to court, which many believe is a waste of taxpayer’s money. But Peltier and Taylor want Melker to stop calling to complain about the bird’s loud cussing, and she’s going to trial to do just that. If Melker doesn’t knock off the complaining, Peltier says, she could face high fines.

Peltier calls the community’s noise ordinance, as it pertains to animals “arbitrary, and structured in a way that allows people to file complaints against neighbors’ pets simply out of dislike of the animals.”

“My client has to defend herself in this,” Peltier told ABC News. He added that his client and her ex-husband had lived peacefully next door to each other for years until Melker moved in and began calling police repeatedly about Willy’s perpetual brouhaha.

Of course Melker disagrees, calling Taylor “malicious and petty.”

For the record, the bird’s salty vocabulary is not a part of the noise violation; the community’s noise ordinance, as it pertains to pets, does not address swearing since most pets do not speak when they’re being noisy. Plus, Peltier denies that the pet bird actually said “f***ing whore.”

Fontaine testified in court that when he and Taylor were together, he had trained Willy to say “knock it off.” That said, Peltier insists that a Cockatoo repeating “knock it off” again and again in rapid succession could be interpreted as something more vulgar.

The good news here is, Melker said she and Fontaine plan to move. Excellent plan!

“We have no peace. We are moving. We are leaving. We cannot take it anymore,” she said.

Moose Lodge Thumbs Nose at Neighbors Bothered by Turkey Shoot Noise

Thanksgiving conjures so many great American traditions, it’s hard to choose a favorite. Some folks in one Raleigh, North Carolina community are particularly fond of their annual weekend Moose Lodge turkey shoots, a twice-weekly practice that is making their closest neighbors miserable from the noise pollution stemming from the gunshots.

The Raleigh Moose Lodge is situated a mere 50 yards from a group of neighborhood homes, and noise from the shotgun blasts during the twice-weekly nighttime turkey shoots is keeping children awake, making pets nervous, and angering residents.

One Raleigh Moose Lodge member and dedicated turkey shooter says lodge members don’t deny the fact that their turkey shoots, which take place from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays are noisy, but they claim the noise should be tolerated because the turkey shoots are part of the lodge’s fundraising campaign for children’s charity.

“It makes money for our purpose, and our purpose is to support the children,” one lodge member says.

One disgruntled neighbor says he has contacted the local Sheriff’s Office, the County Board of Commissioners and the regional office of Moose International, to no avail. The thing is, the Moose Lodge is on County property, while the residents affected by the shooting noise – although only 50 yards away – are actually on City property. The City has stricter noise ordinances that could shut the turkey shoots down, but the Moose Lodge is governed by the lighter weight County noise ordinances.

County noise ordinances override the objections of both fed-up neighbors and City noise ordinances, allowing the turkey shooters to make noise until 11 p.m.

The horn blasts so frequently, shelter representatives have had to get the Washougal Police Department involved. They also hired an acoustical professional to conduct a sound measurement study, which found that passing trucks are registering higher decibel levels than the dogs’ barking. In the meantime, folks next door at Northwest Underwater Construction have hidden the horn from view and placed it on the ground aimed squarely at the shelter.

No one at Northwest Underwater Construction will talk to reporters who have been trying to get their side of the story, and apparently they’re not interested in the potential health effects of the horn’s constant blaring on the shelter staff.

Constant exposure to noise like the blaring from the Northwest Underwater Construction site’s dog obedience horn has been found to cause stress and elevated blood pressure in humans and animals. It is also blamed as a contributor to noise-induced sleep deprivation, which comes with a laundry list of health risks. These implications are in addition to the detrimental impact the horn’s blast can have on the shelter staff’s hearing. It can exacerbate existing conditions including depression, and studies are even showing that ongoing exposure to noise above 70 decibels can cause more serious health problems – including an increased risk of heart attacks.

Video recorded in the back of the shelter gives viewers a taste of the shrill, high-pitched blast that sometimes shrieks unabated for 30 minutes or more. Fruechtel says that the folks over at Northwest Underwater Construction explained that they installed the horn because they were fed up with the sounds of the dogs barking.

Moving in next door to an animal shelter that’s been functioning in the same spot for 18 years has Fruechtel and others wondering what the new neighbors expected upon their arrival, you know, five months ago.

Since September, the shelter has filed two noise complaints against Northwest Underwater Construction with the Washougal Police Department, as they were instructed to do by the Chief of Police, Ron Mitchell. Mitchell says that if the horn is found to be disturbing the peace or in violation of any city code, Northwest Underwater Construction could be facing a $250 fine.

In some estimations, that should be the least of the company’s worries, as they seem to have done their best to prove themselves to be inhospitable neighbors at best. Actions speak louder than words, and it seems Northwest Underwater Construction  isn’t interested in being a good neighbor to the volunteers who care for the community’s abandoned and homeless animals day in and day out, as they have done for 18 years.

It’s understandable that constant dog barking can get on anyone’s nerves, and under different circumstances Northwest Underwater Construction may have had a lot of peoples’ sympathy. But I have to agree with shelter staff when they question Northwest Underwater Construction’s choice to move into an industrial park, right next door to an animal shelter

What I find particularly egregious is Northwest Underwater Construction’s complete lack of consideration for the well-being of the shelter volunteers who are subjected to this high pitched horn hour after hour, day after day. Noise pollution is a serious problem in the U.S. and worldwide, and it’s making people sick. It’s disheartening that this company feels it has the right to move into an industrial park next door to an animal shelter and proceed to blast a siren-like horn at the staff of volunteers, even after they’ve been told of the effect it’s having on the shelter staff.

Chief Mitchell says he hopes to have some answers regarding the Northwest Underwater Construction horn’s future within a week or so. Hopefully, the company’s leaders will come to its senses and remove the offending horn without the police chief having to persuade them to. Hopefully they’ll realize the harm their horn could be doing to shelter workers, and do the right thing.

Community Noise Ordinances Gaining Strength

As the detrimental health effects of noise become better understood in small and large communities nationwide, efforts to curb repeat offenders at every level are increasing. That includes everyone, from club owners and concert venues to the inconsiderate noisy neighbors who keep the party, and the music going into the wee hours when everyone else is trying to sleep.

Possession of earthshaking bass comes with a responsibility not to deafen the neighbors.

So say Richmond, California police, who traditionally field about as many complaints about this form of music sharing each year as they do about gunfire.

But, unlike gunfire, up until now officers only ask offenders to turn it down. Otherwise, they need verbal warnings, written warnings and possibly decibel readings to take action against an awful 2 a.m. backyard party.

The consequences for disrupting the neighbors with excessive noise in Richmond, Virginia will change, however,  if a proposed ordinance about community noise passes City Council, adding teeth to a tooth-challenged municipal code about ticketing and fining noisemakers.

“Traditionally we’ve been using a decibel reading,” Richmond Police Chief Chris Magnus said. “While that’s helpful for determining exactly how loud the noise is, this ordinance would make the standard more reasonable.”

The proposal passed the council’s Public Safety subcommittee in December, and the full council will take it up at a meeting in March, Magnus said.

The amended code would strip much bureaucracy from the process of delivering consequences to noise polluters, and also lower the bar for collecting evidence of noise pollution.

Police must now follow a lengthy process of verbal and written warnings, and take noise measurements, before ticketing anyone who declines a request to reduce the volume. It’s mainly geared toward curbing repeat offenders.

The new ordinance incorporates the same standard most community members use, labeling it problematic if it sounds too loud to a reasonable person, from a certain distance away. That makes it more useful for officers trying to stop an immediate problem.

If police deem it so, they may issue a ticket if the noisemaker cannot quiet down within a few minutes of a warning.

Still, the proposal remains a work in progress according to an organization that represents industrial business in Richmond.

Representatives from the Council of Industries and a group that represents owners of large apartment buildings in the city recently met with Magnus and City Manager Bill Lindsay to discuss their concerns, and plan to do so again, before the item reaches City Council next month.

“We told them that we understand where the police are coming from. They want to put teeth into the (noise) ordinance, and we are supportive of that,” Council of Industries Director Katrinka Ruk said.

But business owners remain leery of adding another layer of noise regulation atop existing zoning law and the city planning department. They also worry about police regulation hampering new construction.

Given that police receive few complaints about industrial noise, and given that plenty of regulation already exists for it, Ruk and the council’s constituents believe industry should not fall under the purview of police.

A final version of the proposal is currently being drafted.

Excerpted from an article by Karl Fischer, West County Times blog.

Noise Pollution is a Well-Travelled Pest in Austin

Austin Texas is known for its great music scene, but the combination of noise and unfortunate geography of the South Texas town is causing residents living miles away from Austin’s downtown bar scene to lose sleep. Sound waves traveling six miles or more from the raucous downtown area is rattling windows and making life miserable for residents of a North Austin neighborhood – six miles away!

An acoustics engineer, hired by the homeowner’s association to determine exactly where the noise was coming from made the surprising discovery that the sound source was so far away. Sound from the downtown area was traveling north due to an acoustical phenomenon in the area’s Waller Creek Basin that causes noise to bounce off the creek’s water, providing momentum to reach their neighborhood. The problem is compounded by Austin’s many rooftop bars and other outdoor music venues.

In 2012, North Austin residents have filed 52 noise complaints, compared with only nine filed in 2010, a rise that coincides directly with the downtown Austin bar and club scene increasing its outdoor music venues. Now the Austin Police Department is working with North Austin homeowners to create new noise ordinances that would force Austin’s music venues to take soundproofing measures.

Naturally, local musicians and bar owners object to adding any restrictions for economic reasons; Austin’s downtown music scene contributes more than $1 billion to the local economy, they claim. Moving performances indoors means entertaining smaller audiences and interfering with the community’s ability to have a good time, according to Austin disc jockey Jeremy von Stilb.

“It’s about community, it’s about creativity,” von Stilb says. That’s why the Austin Music Commission says 95 percent of people move to Austin – for live music.”

Northern Austin residents who are most affected by the noise pollution from the downtown music venues say they understand the musician’s gripe, but they need their sleep. Perhaps there’s a compromise they can reach?

At this point, the North Austin Homeowner’s Association is looking for noise management solutions at the source, and are investigating San Antonio’s noise ordinance model for inspiration. San Antonio puts restrictions on amplified noise between 10:30 p.m. and 7 a.m., which is a solution that is being implemented in communities across the U.S.

However, some Austin musicians believe that, since this is one of the country’s top music scenes, the responsibility for resolving noise issues should belong to the homeowners who should have known better than to move Austin if it is preventing them from sleeping.

Certainly there are effective noise abatement materials and products residents can install in their homes to lesson or resolve the problem, but living six miles or more from the noise source, it never occurred to them that they were close enough to be bothered by noise from downtown.

Geography is a common problem when it comes to noise pollution, as it is here in Austin. Sound travels, particularly in areas where water and hills provide the perfect catalyst. As more becomes known about the effects of noise pollution on human health and well-being, this is the perfect example of the importance of compromise instead of subscribing to endless litigation that only deepens the discord and adds a new layer of stress to an already bad situation.

Noise pollution is a global epidemic, and communities in Europe and India are enacting strict laws to combat the problem, as the health ramifications of noise pollution grow more apparent every year they go unchecked. The U.S. has a long way to go to catch up with implementing and upholding the kind of strict noise pollution limits that other countries are establishing, so the best we can do is find compromises when our noise is negatively affecting our neighbors.

Tampa Officials Swamped with Noise Complaints

TAMPA — Thundering car stereos. Post-apocalyptic street parties. Loud-mouthed jerks roaming the streets with bullhorns.

These are the banes of working-class homeowners in East Tampa, high-rise condo dwellers in the Channel District and restaurateurs in Ybor City.

They also are the Achilles’ heel of the city’s noise ordinance.

The existing law is well-suited for limiting noise from non-moving sources such as construction sites and honky-tonk bars, officials told the City Council during a workshop Thursday.

But officials say the ordinance is not as useful when the noise comes from something on a public street — say, a car with a sub-woofer rumbling along like a sonic boom.

“It just shakes the windows and the doors of our homes,” said Betty Bell, 70, who lives in the Highland Pines neighborhood in East Tampa.

One after another, East Tampa residents told council members of not being able to watch television or talk on the phone, of wearing earplugs to bed, even of hating to go home at night.

And it’s not just car stereos, they said.

Impromptu block parties that are organized online increasingly attract hundreds of people, some from as far as Pinellas County. They crowd the sidewalks with cars and motorcycles, try to park in people’s yards and act like they’ve never heard of common courtesy.

“These block parties are off the chain,” Bell said. “They invade a neighborhood, and they just set up shop.”

Nor are East Tampa residents alone.

Channelside residents complained of noisy crowds spilling out of bars and into parking lots after 3 a.m., beckoned by the braying calls of hot dog vendors.

In Ybor City, bullhorn-toting religious zealots are driving customers out of the historic district. Often, merchants say, waiters can’t hear over the noise to take someone’s order.

“Our big issue right now is bullhorns, on the sidewalk, right in front of people that are sitting in an outdoor cafe,” said Vince Pardo, manager of the city’s Ybor City Development Corp.

Tampa city attorneys said they might have found a solution.

The city’s current noise ordinance focuses on noise coming from specific properties, and it calls for measuring noise in decibels at certain spots.

In downtown Tampa, Ybor City and the Channel District, the decibel readings must be made at the property line of the source of the noise. Throughout the rest of the city, the measurements must be made at the property line of the neighboring property closest to the source.

Trouble is, the measurements can get tricky when the noise is coming from a public street, attorneys say.

To address this problem, the city is looking at a Miami-Dade County noise ordinance based on not measuring noise in decibels but on whether the noise is audible at a specified distance from the source.

City attorneys said they are not talking about getting rid of Tampa’s existing noise ordinance, but about adding a new section to the law.

Noise is a difficult issue, assistant city attorney Rebecca M. Kert told council members. The city last changed its noise ordinance five or six years ago, and only after a three-year process that entailed hiring experts from the University of Florida and holding numerous community meetings.

Miami-Dade’s rule prohibits noise audible at a distance of 100 feet. The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld restrictions on noise that authorities deem to be unreasonably loud and raucous, Kert said.

But she said a case currently pending before Florida’s 2nd District Court of Appeal could have an impact on whether the city could write its own Miami-style noise restriction.

That case, she said, concerns stereo noise coming from cars. She told council members that she anticipates a ruling soon and suggested that she report back after the court decides the case.

Until then, council members said the city should look into using other ordinances on illegal parking and vendor licensing to address some of the problems now costing residents sleep and merchants customers.

“It’s not that we don’t hear you,” council Chairman Charlie Miranda told the crowd. “We do hear you. We want to address your issues.”

Written by Richard Danielson, St. Petersburg Times Staff Writer
In Print: Friday, April 29, 2011

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