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Hingham to hold off on noise bylaw

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  January 24, 2014 11:12 AM

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Hingham selectmen on Thursday decided to postpone voting on a noise bylaw that would authorize police to hand out fines for loud behavior.

At Thursday's selectmen's meeting, several residents strongly objected to the ordinance's wording, and many more had sent in e-mails concerned about the policy’s ramifications.

Though any bylaw will have to be approved at Town Meeting, selectmen said they will hold off their vote until the language is reworked.

“This continues to be something that we have to work through,” said Selectman Paul Healey.

According to a draft on the town’s website, the maximum sound levels for residential neighborhoods cannot exceed 55 decibels, or the sound of normal conversation at three feet, 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 heard from six feet away.

Construction noise is not permitted from 7 p.m. to 6:59 a.m., and 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 for more than 15 minutes in any 60-minute period.

Emergency responders and law enforcement would be exempt from the bylaw, as well PA systems at a sanctioned sporting or public event, parades, religious service bells, and snow removal operations.

Permits can also be obtained for exemptions.

Offenders will see fines of $100 for first offenses, $200 for second offenses, and $300 for third and subsequent offenses.

Declan Boland, chair of the Noise Committee, said the numbers aren’t firm. A third-party consultant has been brought in to study the decibel levels and determine if they are appropriate.

Officials said the main push behind the bylaw was to give police better tools to handle noise complaints. Though police wouldn’t be checking noise levels unless there is a complaint, residents remained concerned.

Mike Pungitore wondered if his father’s landscaping business would be affected. Hingham Sports Partnership Warren Pelissier added concerns about sporting events, from how loud certain games are at public fields, to the noise kids make when they play with their parents in their backyards.

“It seems like we’re killing a flea with a sledgehammer here,” he said.

Boland said discussions would continue regarding keeping or eliminating the decibel levels altogether, and language would also be reworked to clarify how the bylaw would work with other town laws.

Though Selectwoman Irma Lauter believed the bylaw needed more work than the time allotted, board Chairman Bruce Rabuffo said he was optimistic the language could be sorted by the time the town warrant closes in late March.

“We have time to research,” said Rabuffo.

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