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Public invited to sound off on noise proposal

Hearing on ordinance that sets decibel limits scheduled

The Bethlehem Town Board will be listening to residents on Wednesday, Dec. 9, when a public hearing will be held on a proposed noise abatement and containment ordinance that would make it a punishable offense to be too noisy during certain hours.

The drafted law, which is available for review on the town's Web site, would prohibit unreasonable noise between the hours of 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., seven days a week.

Unreasonable noise is defined as "any noise which either annoys, disturbs, injures or endangers the comfort, repose, health, peace, safety or welfare of a reasonable person of normal sensibilities," and is further defined as noise in excess of 75 decibels when measured from the property line of the offender, or from 20 feet away if the noise is occurring on a street.

Specifically mentioned in the law are motor vehicles (including the "spinning and squealing of tires" and revving of engines), power tools, construction noise, amplification devices (televisions, radios, musical instruments, etc.) and companion animals.

"No person shall allow a companion animal to engage in habitual barking, crying, or whining, and consistently disturb the comfort or repose of any person other than the owner of the companion animal," the proposed law reads.

According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, sounds at 70 decibels are equivalent to busy traffic or a vacuum cleaner, and levels of 80 decibels are equivalent to a busy street or alarm clock. Sounds in excess of 80 decibels are considered potentially dangerous to one's hearing.

A committee was formed in 2007 to study the possibility of a noise ordinance. The public demand for such a law has been strong, according to Supervisor Jack Cunningham.

"When I first came into office, I was getting a lot of complaints from people about noise," he said.

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