The fate of a proposed noise ordinance in Putnam Valley is unknown as residents were once again divided on the towns third revision of the law.
Residents continued to remain in opposition of the proposal as the latest revision went before a third public hearing last week. Some argued the decibel limit is too high and would restrict folks from having parties and normal conversation while others asserted the law still isn’t strong enough to implement and enforce.
The one element residents did agree on was how the Town Board needed to revisit the proposal to make additional changes.
“I have parties at my house, and I respect everybody, and I have lots of parties, but we keep them in control and make noise, but we don’t blast music too much,” resident Stacy Tompkins said at the Apr. 21 hearing. “I think my point is, where is this going? Where is the line drawn? The decibel limit is extremely low. I think we really need to seriously look at it again and I’m seriously against it.”
Officials have been striving to amend the towns noise code for several months after receiving numerous complaints last year of neighbors being disruptive and blasting music for hours at a time. The current noise law doesn’t address daytime sound and fails to place a penalty on those who violate the code.
Furthermore, the code doesn’t have a decibel limit, which has restricted law enforcement officers and deputies from effectively enforcing the law.
Despite efforts made by the Town Board, residents have continuously panned each revision officials have presented to the public. Residents chastised the original proposal for being too strict, pressing it would violate their rights and limit their actions.
The second proposal was condemned for not being strict enough, with residents stating that the revision was open to interpretation and would have allowed people to continue to disrupt their neighbors.
The new proposal states that between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m., prolonged noise levels of 70 decibels or more on any given day would be prohibited. The ordinance would apply to revving cars, loud music, artificially amplified voices, or artificially amplified sound producing devices.
Additionally, noise levels exceeding 60 decibels between 8 p.m. and 7 a.m. would be prohibited.
While the remainder of the noise ordinance would remain intact, daytime exemptions to the law would include ongoing construction, yard maintenance, yard and construction mechanisms and tools, air conditioners, generators, snow-blowers, hand tools, chain saws, land and or watercraft that are not stationary, and one-day celebratory events, such as birthday parties and holiday gatherings.
Evening exemptions would consist of air conditioners, generators, all moving land vehicles, tools needed during a weather or national emergency, and one-day celebratory events, including birthday parties and federal holiday parties.
For birthday parties and/or holiday parties, the noise restrictions would be imposed at 8 p.m., the proposal states.
The municipality and utilities would also be excused from all restrictions if it involves necessary maintenance, repairs, and any emergency response during a weather event or national emergency.
Violators would be subject to a fine of up to $500 for each offense, imprisonment of up to 15 days, or both. The town would also be authorized to seek injunctive relief to prevent the continued violation.
While board members have previously expressed concern that neighborhoods could still be disruptive on any given day with birthday parties and holiday gatherings an exception within the law, residents in favor of passing a noise ordinance want to see that scrapped from the proposal.
“For the one-day celebration I don’t think it should be in there at all as an exception,” Gary Larson said. “I still don’t think that any kind of celebration at all should have an unlimited decibel level. I still think there should be a decibel limit on parties.”
Mario Digangi agreed, stating the one-day celebration exception isn’t a good idea moving forward. Larson advised board members to mirror noise ordinances in neighboring municipalities instead of continuing to alter the same contentious proposal.
Town Supervisor Sam Oliverio said the proposal would be up for discussion at the towns May 5 Pre-Work Session meeting, adding how the board has listened to both sides of the issue and is trying to reach a “happy medium.” He alluded that people will be upset no matter what law becomes enacted.
“No matter what law becomes enacted, there’s always going to be people upset by it,” Oliverio said. “We’re trying to reach a popular consensus where it does what it’s supposed to do and that is provide protection for those being harassed by sound but at the same time allow our citizens and our residents to go about their daily lives without being interrupted.”