LACONIA — The City Council last night shrank from scheduling a public hearing on changes to the ordinances regulating noise and licensing loudspeakers proposed by the Committee on Government Operations and Ordinances and instead scheduled "an informal information session" on the proposal at its next regular meeting on Tuesday, October 13.
The noise ordinance, chapter 167 of the city code, stipulates that is unlawful for any person or corporation to make "any loud, unreasonable noise or any noise which would annoy disturb, injure or endanger the comfort, repose, health, peace, safety, convenience, welfare and prosperity of a reasonable person" within the city limits.
The committee suggested two major additions to the ordinance. The first, which would apply to apply to residential and commercial properties throughout the city would specify that a noise "plainly audible," in the judgment of the police, within 50 feet of the property line of the property where it originates, particularly between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. on Friday and Saturday and between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. on Sunday through Thursday would represent a violation. The proposal closely echoes ordinances in Manchester, Nashua and Portsmouth. The second change would apply to persons "yelling, shouting, hooting, whistling or singing in the street, particularly between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m., would also constitute a violation. This change would address unruly crowds spilling out of bars and clubs at closing time.
The committee also proposed extending the hours for the operation of outdoor sound equipment. Currently, outdoor loudspeakers cannot be operated later than 9 p.m. Sunday to Thursday and 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. The committee recommended extending the hours to 10 p.m. and 11 p.m., respectively, and allowing loudspeakers to operate until 11 p.m. on the weekday night before federal holidays.
The committee will also recommend stiffening the penalties of repeated violations of the noise ordinance, by fining violators $100 for the first offense. $250 for the second offense and $500 for all subsequent offenses. The ordinance currently provides for a fine of not more than $250 for all offenses.
Don Richards, a resident of The Weirs who has served on the Planning Board for the past 18 years, told the council that by expending the hours for outdoor loudspeakers the proposal took "a negative direction to the homeowners and condo owners and other residents. If you don't live in an area where noise is a problem," he explained, "it can seem like a light problem." He said that he preferred the ordinance as it stands with effective enforcement. The proposal, he said caters to businesses, "but completely throws residents and homeowners under the bus."
Richards's remarks moved Councilor Ava Doyle (Ward 1), who chaired the committee that drafted the ordinance, and Councilor Henry Lipman (Ward 3) to suggest postponing a public hearing and in favor of an information session.
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