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Public invited to sound off on noise proposal

"We get a fair number of noise complaints," said Deputy Chief Timothy Beebe of the Bethlehem Police Department, who sat on the committee.

Without a law or ordinance, though, police can't do much unless the issue is disturbing and frequent enough to be considered criminal harassment.

"Other than politely asking them to turn it down, at this point there's a not a lot we can do," Beebe continued.

The committee did not recommend a decibel limit to the town, but Cunningham noted that the more successful ordinances do include one. He noted that all parts of the law, including the decibel ceiling, could be amended if it did not work out.

"I don't want government to be too heavy handed here, I want to create something as a true tool of enforcement where enforcement is really needed," Cunningham said. "We constructed it [the ordinance] in a way that it doesn't really prevent anyone from doing their normal activities."

Councilman Sam Messina, who chaired the eight-member committee, said the group had originally looked at recommending a decibel level but decided not to suggest one.

"Eighteen of the 20 surrounding communities have noise ordinances," he said. "They vary greatly in terms of their comprehensiveness and the approach used by the municipalities."

There are various exceptions provided by the drafted law, including government operations, firearms, aircraft, routine or emergency maintenance and construction, disaster recovery activity and manufacturing activities.

"Reasonable agricultural related noise" in an agricultural district or zone and activities in accordance with the New York State Right to Farm Law would also be exempt from the provisions of the law.

Messina wondered what sort of agricultural noise would be "reasonable."

"Whenever you use a modifier like reasonable, it gets you to the point of, well, what do you define as reasonable?" he said.

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