Noise regulation updates cause clamor at Town Meeting

Oct 19, 2016

Noisemakers, rejoice! Town Meeting voters on Tuesday opted not to tighten the town's current noise regulations.

The proposed updates would have expanded the regulations to include sound from vehicles, power tools, and dumpsters. Officials drew from regulations in similar communities to update the laws that currently focus mostly on musical instruments and electronic devices, as well as unusually loud whistling or shouting.

In voting to indefinitely postpone a decision on the regulations — effectively killing the measure — Town Meeting members expressed concern that the changes would negatively impact small-business owners.

More specifically, the updated regulations would have addressed noise from motor vehicles, snow vehicles, recreational vehicles, jet skis, and air boats; construction, demolition, and commercial landscaping activities; domestic power tools including lawnmowers, leaf blowers, and chainsaws; and dumpsters and trash receptacles.

Generally speaking, they would have prohibited "any loud, unnecessary or unusual, unreasonable or excessive noise which either disturbs, injures or endangers the peace or reasonable quiet...."

Select Board Vice Chair Frank Gracie suggested that the proposal be modified to allow small repairs by residential property owners on weekends, as the original proposal banned weekend construction. He also suggested the change not include commercial enterprises.

That ultimately failed when voters argued that many small businesses work on weekends, and also that the use of heavy-duty equipment is not limited to large companies. As the last item up for vote, meeting members decided to postpone the decision.

The updated regulations were initially proposed due to residents' concerns about a gym-type business that would bring its workouts and boomboxes outside near a residential neighborhood, along with people working on vehicles, and jet skis on Noquochoke Lake, said Town Administrator David Cressman.

If passed, the new regulations would neither cost more to implement nor be a significant revenue driver for the town. They would simply give law enforcement extra tools, said Cressman.