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UPDATED: Loud Noises Bylaw Deferred

A bylaw prohibiting certain, unusually loud noises in Milford was deferred Monday at special town meeting. Selectmen had individually disagreed, but voted to recommend it be "passed over."

UPDATED: Special town meeting voters on Monday followed a recommendation to "pass over" a proposal to adopt a new bylaw on unwanted noise. Selectmen had asked town meeting to do so, saying it needs more work.

 

Original Story:

Noise complaints are made frequently to Milford police, typically at least once a weekend, more so in the summer months at night.

The barrage of complaints helped to inspire a bylaw that would prohibit various nuisance noises, including late-night , unduly loud music, loud construction equipment during certain hours, and many other things that generally create a nuisance for immediate neighbors.

But in a meeting Oct. 17, Milford selectmen decided to recommend the measure be "passed over" at, deciding it needed a little fine-tuning to not overly restrict people who have legitimate reasons for making noise.

Selectman Bill Buckley cited people who need to clear snow, for example, with devices that might be noisy.

The measure remains on the warrant for tonight's meeting, but will have a recommendation from selectmen for deferral. could take it up, but in practice, if a sponsor asks for a measure to be deferred, voters usually follow that recommendation.

The proposal, drafted by Town Counsel Gerald Moody, would include a fine up to $300 for each violation. If the noise is made by renters, the landlord must be notified in writing that an offense has taken place.

The proposal, based on noise bylaws used in other communities, would:

  • Prevent people from playing radios, TVs, musical instruments and at a volume that would disturb "the reasonable quiet, comfort or repose" of people living or working in the vicinity.
  • Ban yelling, shouting, hooting, whistling, singing or any other such noise on public streets or in public spaces between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m.
  • Prohibit owners from keeping animals or birds that make frequent or continued noise that disturbs others.
  • Prohibit the playing of drums, horns or other instruments at such a level that disturbs others.
  • Give police officers the authority to make reasonable judgements about noise. The bylaw does not tie noise to a specific decibel level.
  • Prohibit noise generated by construction, and other businesses, including jack-hammering, use of power tools and idling of diesel trucks, between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m.

Exemptions include police and fire apparatus, highway department activities and any activity that has a permit and a purpose, such as a marching band practicing outdoors.

Dino DeBartolomeis, chairman of the selectmen, favors the bylaw as written and felt it was good to go. In three meetings he's had with neighborhood constituents, he said, they were "100 percent in favor of it."
"The sooner we have this implemented, the better we'll be able to address the [issues] affecting neighborhoods," he said. "... This is a tool that allows our police department to work with people."

Brian Murray agreed: "I know our police department uses discretion," he said. "I don't have any real problem in going forward."

Buckley, who asked for the measure to be passed over, said it was close, but he wanted to see some exemptions beefed up for legitimate noises. "I think we're close, I don't think we're there."

Josh R October 24, 2011 at 08:20 PM
I can't shower in or drink the town's water without running the risk of catching cancer, but at least they are starting to crack down on those damn drummers that are keeping me up at night.
David Nolta October 25, 2011 at 12:07 AM
I am SO in favor of finally doing something about the noise in Milford. We are becoming a byword for "anything goes"--in Milford you can drive 50mph in a residential neighborhood, turn your two- or three-family house into a 12-family tenement, have a party that lasts from Thursday night till Tuesday morning. People who are worried about not being able to play their pianos or use their snowblowers are not taking seriously the real problem that affects some neighborhoods, such as the Draper Park area, where the throbbing music and the shrieking drinkers and the screaming tires go on non-stop FOR DAYS! Your dog isn't happy? Kick him out at three in the morning for two hours, in the freezing cold, to wake up everybody within a mile radius. If the police are called, just ignore them (this happened on Draper Park several times over the past month). I don't see why the selectmen can't take the bull by the horns at least once and say, "ENOUGH IS ENOUGH". People must learn to treat each other better. The fine should be HIGHER, frankly.
David Nolta October 25, 2011 at 12:07 AM
And by the way--I think we can all agree that ambulances, and snow-clearing, are legitimate exemptions. But it is typical of Milford to spend more time on making sure there are exceptions to the rules than on MAKING and ENFORCING rules. The exceptions, I truly believe, we will agree on, and will follow naturally. Furthermore, when this regulation was first suggested, a lot of people worried that their children would have their creativity stifled. If your school-age child is playing the drums loudly after 11pm, I don't see why that should be considered okay. Children should learn early on that living in a community means considering the peace and welfare of everybody in that community.
UglyHat October 25, 2011 at 12:33 PM
I don't think it's unreasonable to want some peace and quiet AND clean, contaminate-free water.
Heidi Burrill October 25, 2011 at 02:12 PM
Do these times include the weekend as well?
Mary MacDonald (Editor) October 25, 2011 at 02:43 PM
I think so, but the bylaw wasn't approved, so it's all up for revision.
Jack October 26, 2011 at 11:41 PM
Totally stunned this did not get done. I love the pea brains that think little johnny will get fined or thrown in jail for practicing his trumpet. The police need the power to deal with the very real problem of noise disturbances. I can't even understand what the debate is about GET IT DONE.
David Nolta October 27, 2011 at 01:53 AM
Amen Jack.
UglyHat October 27, 2011 at 01:13 PM
Just because people are concerned about how regulations might affect their lives doesn’t make them pea brains. Sometimes laws, bylaws, regulations, etc. have unintended consequences. Changing laws once enacted is a lot harder than getting them right the first time.
David Nolta October 27, 2011 at 02:24 PM
I've just re-read the article, and--including the exceptions-- it seems pretty straightforward and fair. Those people who are worried about the consequences should hasten to add their suggestions for exceptions. And speaking of consequences--the consequences of NOT having a noise regulation in this town have caused many people a LOT of stress, sleeplessness, and suffering. I'm afraid I just don't understand why this community can't do something as simple and straightforward and HUMANE as this. If you have a problem with the regulation as described in the article above, I'd love to hear specifically what the problem is. Otherwise, I'd like to know what we can best do to get it passed. Anybody?
UglyHat October 27, 2011 at 03:24 PM
I was only suggesting that calling opponents names might not be the best way to get something done. I know you’re not that one that used the pea-brain term David, but my point remains. It tends to push people away from the table rather than gather them around it. Now, I don’t currently live in Milford so my input doesn’t (and shouldn’t) count. But if you’re interested in my point of view on this…I would be concerned with the fact that sections 1.b and all of section 2, specify time-based restrictions. But section 1a says playing music (to paraphrase) at any time in such a way as to disturb anybody in the vicinity is prohibited. Why not put time-based restrictions on this section? The reason for my concern is it could provide a form of legal harassment. If my neighbor doesn’t like me he can call the cops because my radio is on. The cops may not do anything, but the call alone gives them a right to come on my property. I don’t like that.
David Nolta October 27, 2011 at 05:56 PM
Well you're correct that I didn't call you a pea-brain. As far as time restrictions for music, I have several responses to that, based on experience. First, until you have had an immediate neighbor put his car (with a sooped-up stereo) in his open garage with all the car doors open, and turn his music on full blast, thereby transforming his garage into an architectural-scale sound system FACING YOUR HOUSE, you might not be aware of just how bad music can get in a neighborhood. That sort of activity is criminal, AT ANY TIME OF THE DAY OR NIGHT. Second, if someone wants to misuse the Police by complaining about radio music just because they don't like their neighbors--they can do that right now, with or without a regulation. People being dishonest (claiming you're disturbing them when you're not, claiming you're printing dollars bills in your basement when you're not, etc.) is criminal behavior and I believe that there are already regulations against such harassing activities. Now to get back to the NOISE problem in MILFORD, the police log for the past year confirms that a regulation is LONG OVERDUE, and that many people REALLY SUFFER for the lack of it. I personally think that people have a right to a basic level of quiet at all times of day.
UglyHat October 27, 2011 at 06:11 PM
That’s a fair point on the misuse of the police. To your point that people have the right to basic levels of quiet at all times of the day, I just disagree with that. What’s a ‘basic level of quiet’? And if you have that right, can’t the people of East Boston (Logan) demand the same right? This may be why so many of these ordinances are based on time and decibel level. I agree that a high-end stereo can get extremely loud. But so can a chain saw. Why should you be allowed to run a chain saw all day Saturday but I can’t play music at the same decibel level? I don’t mean to offend or anger you, just playing Devil’s advocate.
David Nolta October 27, 2011 at 08:04 PM
I didn't move to East Boston, because I did not want to live near--and be constantly disturbed by--the noise of an airport. 17 years ago I DID move to Milford, to an area which was what I would consider (and, at the time, I found to be) a quiet residential neighborhood. There is a small park, so clearly I expected to hear children playing. There are houses with lawns and driveways, so clearly I expected to hear lawn mowers and snowblowers. And occasional saws, and occasional music from parties. Those expectations for what I would consider a "basic level of quiet" have, in the past few years, been demolished. A basic level of quiet certainly does imply "hours of operation", so perhaps we agree about that. But I myself am willing to allow the police greater leeway, now, to side with the person who is NOT making the noise (if the claim is reasonably made and verified that noise is being made), rather than continuing to prevent police from having any authority to shut down noise being made--and being reported--as a disturbance, whenever and wherever it is being made. The police decide whether or not someone's erratic driving requires a breathalizer. Why can't they be allowed to have some say in determining whether or not someone is making too much noise?
David Nolta October 27, 2011 at 08:04 PM
And especially when it is the SAME houses making the same noise, day in and day out. The police log verifies that there are specific residences which are regularly disturbing the peace--there should be a regulation which allows them to be punished, and this regulation is a good first step toward that. I don't have a chain saw--unlike most people in Milford, I try not to make a lot of noise, and I apologize if I do.
UglyHat October 27, 2011 at 08:22 PM
I agree that you have a desire and expectation for a basic level of quiet. I desire and expect that in my neighborhood too. I’m not sure that means you have a right to it - at least not yet. What you propose sounds reasonable. I hope for your sake the Selectmen reconsider or modify and resubmit the articles. Good luck.
David Nolta October 27, 2011 at 09:04 PM
Thank you!
Mary MacDonald (Editor) October 27, 2011 at 11:40 PM
The number of the street escapes me, but there was one house, on one street, that the police were called to at least three times this summer, in one night. And the narrative in the police log said the occupant was telling police: you'll be back again tomorrow, because we're having a party then, too. It was pretty brazen. I think for some neighborhoods, this seems to be a non-issue. For others, it's a huge issue. And the bylaw requires town meeting approval, so you are looking at the spring before it can be adopted, David.
David Nolta October 28, 2011 at 03:16 AM
Thanks for letting me know, Mary. I'm gonna come to that meeting with a big bell tied around my neck...

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