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City Noise Plan Is Unsound

Editorial By Courant

November 29, 2007

Street noise can ruin the quality of life in Hartford. People who move out of the city often cite street noise from loud car radios, motorcycles and dance clubs as a determining factor.

To quiet the city, however, Hartford officials have amended an ordinance in a way that appears unenforceable and unlikely to win the approval of the state Department of Environmental Protection.

State regulations set a variety of decibel levels that must be breached before a noise can be considered in violation of the law. The levels vary according to whether the noisy area is zoned for commercial, residential or industrial development.

They also change according to the time of day that the noise occurs.

Noise intensity must be measured with sound-level meters designed for that purpose. DEP officials say the instruments cost up to $200 apiece.

The amendment under consideration by the city council would add one stipulation: Any noise that is "plainly audible at a distance of 100 feet from its source, by a person of normal hearing," would also be a violation of city law.

In other words, police officers would be making a subjective determination as to whether a noise was loud enough to be illegal. Therein lies the problem. DEP officials say they have never approved such a method of measuring noise. To do so would set a major precedent.

Even if DEP were to grant the city's wish, people cited for a violation could challenge the charge in court as unsubstantiated.

A better solution might be to equip police with the necessary devices to measure noise levels and enforce the laws that already exist.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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