CLAYTON -- In an effort to create a more specific noise ordinance, the town has been working to understand what it would mean to set noise allowances by decibel level.
The council ultimately decided to put off amending the town’s noise ordinance until they can get a count of how many noise citations the police department issues each year.
Last Monday before the town council meeting, the council gathered in town square to measure a variety of noises to better understand what the decibel measurements mean.
With a lawn mower, a leaf blower, and a stereo on hand, the council compared those noise measurements to measurements taken around town.
The town asked engineers from Caterpillar to consult on the project, which involved setting up decibel meters around town in areas like Horne Square, the Clayton Center by the air conditioning unit, the intersection of U.S. 70 and Main Street, and a location in Glen Laurel, where there have been noise complaints from residents.
The measurements were done to help the council understand the level of ambient noise around town so they can potentially write an ordinance that would ban noises measuring above that level at certain times of day.
For example, the intersection of Main Street and U.S. 70 measured at an average of 66.3 decibels during a 10-minute period. That would be illegal in Cary, for instance, where the town’s noise ordinance limits sound amplification in residential neighborhoods to 60 decibels between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m., or 50 decibels or more between 9 p.m. and 9 a.m.
When the town measured noise in town square, the mower and the blower came in at decibel readings in the high 70s and low 80s. The music, which wasn’t played as loudly as a town square concert, measured in the low 60s.
“What I take away is that we truly don’t have a noise problem in town,” said Mayor Jody McLeod.
Councilman Butch Lawter argued that there were more pressing issues to be concerned about.
But for Councilman Art Holder who first introduced the need to study the noise ordinance back in May, the need to amend the ordinance to make it more objective is still there.
“You’ve got citizens out there where neighbor noise is annoying them. When the police are called, they’re issuing citations without measurements. We’re being unfair to our citizens if police don’t have something objective to measure,” Holder said.
Mayor Pro Tem Michael Grannis said it wouldn’t make sense to limit noise to hard and fast decibel levels.
“I don’t think we can set a DBA without a plus or minus fluctuation,” Grannis said.
Town Manager Steve Biggs suggested that officers who are called out to a noise complaint could take a baseline noise reading in the surrounding area, and issue a citation if the noise at the scene is louder by a certain amount.
But McLeod wasn’t convinced that adding decibel levels to the noise ordinance would fix the law.
“I think it’s subjective now, and I think it’s subjective if you revamp it,” McLeod said.