Committee seeks to clarify noise ordinance, stretch loudspeaker hours

LACONIA — In the wake of several controversies arising from complaints about excessive noise and licensing outdoor sound systems, the Government Operations and Ordinances Committee last night drafted changes to the noise and licensing ordinances, which will be presented to the City Council later this month and to a public hearing next month.

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. City Manager Scott Myers explained that the ordinance closely echoed 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. Myers said that Portsmouth had a similar ordinance to 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, which currently provides for a fine of not more than $250. At the suggestion of Councilor Ava Doyle (Ward 1), who chairs the committee, a graduated schedule of fines — $100 for the first offense, $250 for the second and $500 for the third — will be proposed. "A fine of $250 per night could be chump change for a business doing well," Doyle remarked.

Joe Driscoll, an innkeeper at The Weirs who has complained of noise from music venues on Lakeside Avenue, told the committee that the ordinance would only be as effective as the enforcement. He noted that while the Planning Board may impose restrictions or conditions, as it did in approving the plan to offer live music at the Tower Hill Tavern, the police are responsible for enforcement.

Driscoll also suggested that if an individual or business applied for frequent or recurring loudspeaker permits to operate an outdoor sound system, abutters and neighbors should be notified and offered an opportunity to comment. The committee agreed and asked Myers to address the issue in the recommendation to be presented to the council.

The committee intends to forward its recommendations to the City Council at its meeting on September 28 together with a request to schedule a public hearing during the City Council meeting on October 13.

  • Category: Local News
  • Hits: 484

Contract for Belmont scenic trail awarded to Conway firm

BELMONT — Town Land Technician Rick Ball said yesterday that the contract for Phase 1 of the Winnisquam Scenic Trail has been formally awarded to Nelson Communications System, Inc. of Center Conway.

The recreational trail, which will run primarily along side the railroad tracks from the Agway store on Rte 3 to the Roberts Town Beach, a distance of 1.5 miles, was projected by engineers to cost $726,278. The lowest construction bid, however, was $825,290 and came from general contractor Nelson Communications Service, Inc. of Center Conway.

Ball said yesterday that he has requested that 80 percent of the shortfall ($68,029) come from the N.H. Department of Transportation, which manages the Transportation Enhancement Program grant fund. Ball said the Selectboard agreed to spend $17,007 for its 20-percent share.

Ball said there is a three-month construction time allotment and Nelson Communications is ready to go. He said that at some point over the next few days, the necessary bonds and insurances will be provided and a pre-construction meeting will be scheduled with the N.H. DOT.

He said construction could begin as early as October.

The trail has been 12 years in the making and is part of the scenic corridor railway trail system. A separate not-for-profit group called the Belmont Regional Alternative Trail System raised money for years, initially starting with two phases. As construction costs rose, the town shifted its focus to Phase I and was given approval to go out to bid in August.

  • Category: Local News
  • Hits: 322

New Hampton man backs out of plea deal

LACONIA — A New Hampton man charged with two probation violations and a new charge of sales of heroin - subsequent offense - withdrew his agreed upon plea deal with the state at the last minute on Thursday forcing the state to reschedule his hearings.

Norman Batchelder, Jr., 58 of 99 Kelley Road pleaded guilty in July of 2014 to one count of possession of heroin and one count of possession of buprenorphine in Belknap County Superior Court. He was sentenced to serve 12 months in the Belknap County House of correction with three months suspended on one charge and 18 months to 3 years in the N.H. State Prison all of which was suspended pending five years of good behavior.

According to documents obtained from the court, Batchelder had two encounters with police during the time of his probation. The first allegedly occurred at this home when he was arrested on April 22 by the New Hampton Police Department for obstructing the reporting of a crime and criminal threatening.

Police and fire responded to Kelley Road for a 30-year-old female who was unconscious and not breathing from what appeared to be an overdose. Before emergency crews arrived, Batchelder allegedly told the victim to leave by stating "Leave and do not call 911." He allegedly threatened her by telling her if she didn't leave he would punch her in the face.

Batchelder's file included a statement by him dated April 17 and taken by his probation officer in which he admits he tested positive for barbiturates and heroin.

Prior to Batchelder's scheduled hearing Wednesday, he had agreed with his probation officer and the Belknap County Attorney's Office that he would plead responsible to the probation violation and serve 3 to 6 months in the House of Corrections as well as plead guilty to the new charge of sales of controlled drugs - subsequent offense. He had agreed to serve 3 to 6 months for the new crime concurrently, or at the same time, as his probation violation.

When all parties had gathered in Judge James O'Neill's courtroom, Batchelder changed his mind about his previous agreement.

Probation Officer Seifu Ragusa told the court that in his opinion Batchelder was stalling and wasting the court's time and requested the court hold the probation violation hearing as soon as possible with no further possibility of delay. O'Neill agreed.

As for the new charges, Batchelder is scheduled for trial in December.

  • Category: Local News
  • Hits: 560