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Proposed Hingham noise ordinance includes fines

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  January 17, 2014 11:48 AM

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Hingham’s small town vibe is about to become more tranquil, with a noise ordinance that would impose fines on noisy behavior.

A selectmen vote is scheduled Jan. 23 on the proposal, which would limit outdoor activities to certain decibel readings and create a structure of fines for offenders.

“Police get complaints, but don’t have a mechanism to deal with it,” said Selectman Bruce Rabuffo. “[We’ve been] looking for a bylaw to make a warning and then make a fine.”

According to a draft on the town’s website, the maximum sound level for residential neighborhoods cannot exceed 55 decibels, roughly the sound of piano practice, from 7 a.m. to 7:59 p.m. From 8 p.m. to 6:59 a.m., decibel readings may not exceed 45 decibels, or slightly louder than a whisper in a quiet library, according to gcaudio.com.

The measurement would be taken outside the boundary of the property where the noise originated.

Construction noise is not permitted from 7 p.m. to 6:59 a.m. During the day, construction noise can only be louder than the noise specifications for no more than 15 minutes in any 60-minute period.

Loading and unloading equipment and use of power tools are also not allowed between 8 p.m. and 6:59 a.m. in residential neighborhoods or at any time during the day for more than 15 minutes in any 60-minute period.

There are exemptions for emergency responders and law enforcement, as well as sanctioned public address systems, parades, religious service bells, snow removal and town construction operations.

Permits can also be obtained for exemptions, the bylaw states.

Those who flout the ordinance will be fined $100 for the first offense, $200 for the second offense, and $300 for third and subsequent offenses.

The Noise Bylaw Study Committee has been reviewing bylaw language since October, analyzing other communities’ noise restrictions and discussing how Hingham might adopt a policy.

“We reviewed quite a lot of existing bylaws,” said Declan Boland, chair of the Noise Committee. “[No other community has] one as comprehensive as this.”

A draft bylaw was presented to selectmen in early January for review.

Boland said police wouldn't be monitoring neighborhoods with a noise meter, but rather to give police some enforcement power when there are complaints. The crux of the bylaw is to replicate what is mostly common practice in Hingham today, Boland said

"The intent isn’t to be autocratic, but if someone is causing noise, for police to have a bylaw to enforce it," Boland said.

Some amendments are pending. Boland said one of the biggest benefit to the bylaw is that it allows police to track offenses.

Hingham officials are seeking public input on the ordinance on their website.

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