The Londonderry Town Council has approved an amended noise ordinance.
The Council approved the ordinance 4-0 after a public hearing Monday night, July 11.
Town Manager Kevin Smith and Police Chief Bill Hart spoke to the ordinance, which had been continued from the May 16 meeting. Smith said he had received a number of calls on the proposed ordinance, all from the agricultural community. Farmers, particularly the owners of the town’s three apple orchards, were concerned about being allowed to water and spray their plants during the overnight hours.
Apples and snow
“We don’t want to do anything to hurt farming and agriculture,” Smith said.
“Those are the same phone calls I got,” Hart said.
Section II of the draft ordinance is the prohibition against “Unnecessary Noise,” which prohibits “excessive, unnecessary or unusually loud noises” that are “prolonged, unusual or unnatural” from the hours of 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.
However, agricultural uses are exempted in the new ordinance under Section III, item D, which states, “This prohibition exempts farming and/or agricultural activity and farming and/or agricultural machinery.”
Councilor Joe Green questioned whether Item D should even be in the ordinance. “The neighbors should have the ability to speak directly to the farmers,” he said. “I think we should strike this from the ordinance.”
But Smith said the item was a precaution against complaints.
“They are concerned they could be called on it,” Hart said. He noted he had spoken with Mike Cross, manager of the Mack apple orchards, who told him the only time they could spray, prune and water was at 1 a.m.
“I can’t imagine that watering and spraying would be so noisy,” Green said.
Councilor Tom Dolan said the growers use high-velocity fans from the backs of their trucks and those could be loud.
“I spoke to Kevin and we talked about keeping the agricultural piece in there,” Hart said, adding, “It’s part of who we are.”
The Council agreed by consensus to keep Item D in the ordinance.
Janusz Czyzowski, director of public works, expressed concern about Section III, Item A, which exempts “persons operating vehicles, machinery, or equipment while engaged in snow clearance or snow removal operations, so long as such operations are performed within three days of the cessation of a winter storm resulting in the accumulation of at least 3 inches of snow within the town’s limits.”
Czyzowski suggested the item stop after “cessation of a winter storm,” pointing out that his crews still had to go out and work if there was an inch of ice. He also objected to the “three days” provision, noting that some storms take longer.
Dolan agreed, saying, “We often have ice storms that aren’t necessarily 3 inches of snow.” He too suggested that the depth of the storm and the duration be deleted.
Hart pointed out that snow removal would also be exempt under Section III E, Public Safety Services.
The board voted 4-0 to remove everything after “cessation of a winter storm.”
Resident Paul Margolin expressed several concerns in the public hearing. Margolin asked about the genesis of the new ordinance, and why it was necessary after approving a recent animal control ordinance.
Smith said he has received “frequent complaints” about noise matters that are not animal-related. “Without a noise ordinance, it is difficult to enforce,” he said.
The state has one general state statute, he said. “But this gives us teeth, and allows us to enforce it,” Smith added.
Margolin asked if businesses could be “grandfathered” exempt, and Hart told him there was no grandfathering.
Margolin also asked about generators during a power loss, and Hart said in his experience, “I don’t find generator noise to be excessive.” Also, they are necessary in an emergency, he said, noting, “People need generators to survive.”
“If a community member has a problem, who should they call?” Margolin asked. Hart said they should call his department or Code Enforcement Officer Richard Canuel.
Nuts and bolts
The particulars of the ordinance include the following:
• It will be unlawful for any person, firm or corporation to make “unnecessary noise” from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m., seven days a week;
• It exempts people involved in snow clearance;
• It exempts municipal maintenance work where the abutters to the work site have been notified;
• It exempts activities of a temporary duration for which a permit has been secured;
• It exempts farming and public works activities.
Those with special situations may apply for a special permit for relief from the ordinance for a temporary period from the Building Inspector, Code Enforcement Officer or Town Manager. However, special permits will not include activity on Sundays.
The penalties for not observing the ordinance are, first offense, $100; second offense, $200; and third offense within a 12-month period, $500.
To Dolan’s question about the “backing up beeping” of big-box stores, Hart said those sounds are not necessarily contradictory to the public health, safety, convenience or welfare. What he’s looking for, he said, are prolonged nuisances.
“One loud noise in itself does not a violation make,” he said.
Hart also pointed out that “Londonderry, by dint of geography, luck and good planning, has most of its industrial property separate from residences.”
While the town has a separate fireworks ordinance and fireworks are not addressed under the new ordinance, Dolan took a moment to address the issue of home fireworks and recently-returned veterans. Many returned vets have PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), he said, and the sound of fireworks could “greatly exacerbate” their unsettled nerves. Dolan urged Londonderry residents to be sensitive to others’ needs when shooting off fireworks.
The Council approved the ordinance 4-0.