Revisions give noise ordinance ‘more teeth’

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NAUGATUCK — Officials are close to overhauling the borough’s noise ordinance.

As it stands now, the noise ordinance is one sentence long and states that no one can shout, use a megaphone, or amplifier in a street, public place, or within hearing distance of a church or public meeting. The borough formed a noise ordinance subcommittee last summer to study it and possibly recommend changes after residents raised concerns.

The subcommittee developed proposed changes to the ordinance, which went to a public hearing Tuesday night during the Board of Mayor and Burgesses meeting.

The proposal, which is nearly four pages long, details what decibel levels noises can be in commercial, industrial, and residential zones and lays out a method for measuring the noise. The decibel levels are lower between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m., under the proposal.

The proposed revised ordinance also gives police the ability to investigate and enforce the ordinance. If a person is found in violation of the ordinance they will receive a $100 fine for first offence and a $250 fine for each subsequent offence, the proposal states.

“It is a much more detailed ordinance than currently exists,” Borough Attorney Alicia Perillo said. “This one has a lot more substance and a little more teeth.”

Resident Manuel Santos, who raised the issue to the board last summer because he says his neighbor mows his lawn late at night, said he appreciates the borough drafting the proposal. However, he felt that having the nighttime noise restrictions take effect at 10 p.m. is not beneficial and asked the board to make it earlier.

“When you are turning on your headlights to mow your lawn at night, that’s an issue,” Santos said.

Finance Board member Dan Sheridan said the noise limits seemed a little low. In residential areas noise beyond a property line cannot exceed 55 decibels during the day and 45 decibels at night, under the proposal.

Sheridan pointed out that lawnmowers, snow blowers, and vacuum cleaners all violate the levels set forth in this ordinance.

“I have a concern that we are really tightening things down with numbers where we could have a whole rash of complaints for no good reason, or citizens thinking they are in violation of the ordinance for no good reason,” Sheridan said.

Burgess Rocky Vitale, who chaired the subcommittee, pointed out that there are exemptions in the ordinance for activities such as yard maintenance, snow removal, and domestic power equipment.

Deputy Police Chief Joshua Bernegger said officers responding to a noise complaint would use their discretion and judgement as to whether a noise constituents a violation and what action to take. The proposal allows the department to take action against a continual noise source, he said.

Perillo said the borough could rework it to make it clearer that activities, such as lawn mowing, are permitted.

“The intent is not to micromanage everybody but to protect people from constant excessive noise,” Perillo said.

The public hearing was continued until the board’s February meeting.