Noise ordinance for Pittsburgh neighborhoods headed for passage
July 30, 2015 12:09 AM
Pittsburgh City Council President Bruce Kraus ntroduced the legislation.
By Robert Zullo / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
A new city noise ordinance that, among other changes, allows police officers to make common-sense judgments about what constitutes a violation cleared a City Council committee Wednesday.
“If you’re not being a good neighbor, there are steps we can take to ensure the peace,” said council President Bruce Kraus, who introduced the legislation, which underwent a few minor amendments and appears headed for unanimous approval next week.
The new law extends protections to all residential properties, whereas the existing law covers only residential zones, providing little recourse to apartment dwellers or homeowners in areas with industrial zoning, such as the Strip District. New language allows city police to issue a citation based on whether the noise is clearly audible from 75 feet away and whether it “annoys or disturbs a reasonable person of normal sensitivities” in addition to measured decibel levels.
“We more or less have not had a noise ordinance in this city the last couple of years,” Councilman Dan Gilman said. “Relying on a decibel level is just not working.”
The law sets decibel limits for unamplified noise that “enters any residential property or premises in a residential zoning district” at 65 decibels between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. and 55 decibels between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. Amplified noise must be kept below 75 decibels. For “apartment-to-apartment and residence-to-residence noise,” the standard for a violation is 3 decibels “above background sound level,” though responding officers can also use a simple standard: Is the noise clearly audible from a distance of 75 feet?
The ordinance also bars noise from a vehicle, such as music, or “portable, hand-carried, audio amplification,” that is “plainly audible” to an officer from 75 feet away.
Exemptions include authorized emergency vehicles or utility companies, bells or chimes from schools or religious institutions, lawn care and maintenance equipment, tools between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. and properly permitted construction. Also exempt are sporting events, establishments with entertainment permits, parades and special events and engines regulated by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.
Violations come with fines, potential jail time if fines are not paid and booting of vehicles. Offenders may also be subject to the city’s disruptive property ordinance, which could result in misdemeanor criminal charges.
Robert Zullo: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-3909 or on Twitter @rczullo.
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