Town gets earful on noise law

The Town of Bethlehem will remain without a noise ordinance for at least the time being, as the Town Board on Wednesday, Dec. 9, decided after a public hearing that there are questions to be answered and adjustments to be made to the proposed local law.

The draft legislation, emerging about two years after a committee was formed to study the matter, would make it illegal to produce noise in excess of 75 decibels between the hours of 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., as measured from the offender's property line or from a distance of 20 feet if the noise occurs on the street.

Supervisor Jack Cunningham emphasized that the intent of the law is not to disallow noise in the town, but to give law enforcement a means to deal with noise complaints.

Occasionally, we have residents who create noise very late in the evening, and sometimes we have trouble getting them to cooperate with neighbors and the police on keeping that level of noise down, he said. "We're just trying to give the police the tools to do their job."

While there was little outright opposition to the idea of a noise ordinance on Wednesday, residents raised several questions about the language and purview of the law.

Planning Board member John Smolinsky questioned whether the law should require measurements to be taken in dB (straight decibels) or in dBA, a weighted scale that more accurately represents the effect of sound on the human ear.

Noise ordinance task force member Jennifer DeFranco said she supported the idea of measuring on the dBA scale, and added that objectionable noise is not just a nighttime occurrence and suggested that a daytime noise standard be considered.

"I think it would be an extra tool for the officers in the daytime," she said.

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