Friday, Apr 12th

Trustees Consider Measures to Make Scarsdale Quieter

earplugYou may be taking advantage of the improving weather as summer approaches. Personally, I have enjoyed soaking up the sunshine in my backyard for the past few weeks. But the tranquility is all too often interrupted by the sounds of blaring construction and leaf blowers. I’m sure that this is a familiar experience for many Scarsdale residents.

In order to preserve the tranquility of the town, the Scarsdale Village Board of Trustees met on the evening of Tuesday, May 23, 2023, to discuss a proposed local law to amend Chapter 205 of the Code of the Village of Scarsdale entitled “Noise.”

This law was created with the goal of regulating loud, prolonged, unnatural, or unusual noises that are detrimental to public health and comfort. By regulating these noises, the Board intends to improve the quality of living for Scarsdale residents. 

The regulation of noise by this ordinance can be grouped into three broad categories: unnecessary noise, noise exceeding a certain decibel level, and noise generated by specific activities. However, it is important to note that the “category” of noise does not impact the likelihood of receiving a fine or the fine itself—they are just useful in understanding what types of noise may be regulated.

In its current state, the law defines the following terms:

  1. Affected Person: “Any person who has lodged a noise complaint with the Building Department or Police Department that he or she is the receptor of Noise on property within the Village, and said Affected Person has an interest in the property as an owner, tenant, or employee. A noise compliant must be made in writing or verbally to an authorized Noise Control Officer.”
  2. Daytime Hours: “The hours between 8:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, and the hours between 10:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. on weekends and legal holidays.”
  3. Nighttime Hours: “The hours between 7:00 p.m.-8:00 a.m. Monday through Friday, and the hours between 6:00 p.m. and 10:00 a.m. on weekends and legal holidays.”
  4. dBA: “The sound level as measured using the "A" weighting network with a sound level meter meeting the standards set forth in American National Standards Institute S1.4-1983 or its successors. The unit of reporting is dB(A).”
  5. Decibel: “The practical unit of measurement for sound pressure level.”
  6. Extraneous Sound: “Any sound that is intense and intermittent and is neither ambient sound nor sound attributable to a source or sources under investigation for a potential violation of this chapter.”
  7. Continuous Sound: “Sound with a duration of one second or longer measured by the slow response of a sound level meter. Impulsive sounds that are rapidly repetitive and occur over a period of time with a duration of one second or longer shall be measured as continuous sound.”
  8. Impulsive Sound: “Any sound with a rapid onset and rapid decay with either a single pressure peak or a single burst (multiple pressure peaks) having a duration of less than one second.”

The definitions of these terms are necessary to understand the specific regulations of the proposed law. The ordinance aims to regulate both continuous and impulsive sound. It would prohibit any continuous sound exceeding three or more measurement periods—a measurement period is defined as half a minute—within any one-hour period. A measurement period is defined as half a minute. The proposed maximum permissible sound level limits in dB(A) are listed below:

Decibel Chart

Additionally, the law would prohibit impulsive sources of sound that exceed 80 dBA when measured at or within the property line of the affected person. Impulsive sounds may also be subject to the limits outlined in the above table if they exceed certain frequencies in half an hour.

Furthermore, the proposed law specifies prohibited acts, restricted uses, and activities regardless of time and dBA level. Among them are:

  1. Sound production devices that are commercial or residential
  2. Loudspeakers & public-address systems mounted outdoors
  3. Handheld, portable speakers
  4. Animals vocalizing for:
    1. 5 minutes without interruption; defined as an average of four vocalizations or more per minute
    2. 10 minutes intermittently; defined as an average of two vocalizations or more per minute
    3. “It is an affirmative defense under this subsection that the animal was intentionally provoked to bark or make any other noise.”
  5. Unmuffled or modified vehicles; vehicles amplifying sound that is plainly audible at a distance of 25 feet; excessive and unnecessary use of a horn
  6. Gasoline powered blowers

These restrictions may sound daunting, but the Board has acknowledged the need for reasonable and necessary exceptions. Residents may obtain a noise permit to play or produce sound above the listed decibel levels in the above table. Commercial establishments, including bars, restaurants, or performance venues, would also be required to obtain noise permits. Applications for permits would be made to the Village Manager and reviewed and approved by the Mayor, Police Chief, and Building Inspector. It is important to note that applicants should submit an application at least 30 days prior to the proposed occurrence or event.

Both quantitative and qualitative assessments would be used by enforcement officers to determine if a noise is in violation of the proposed law. Furthermore, the Code Enforcement Officer, Building Inspector of the Village of Scarsdale, and/or the Village Police Department would be authorized to “exercise such powers as may be necessary or convenient to carry out and effectuate the purposes and provisions of this Chapter.”

Should an individual be found in violation of the law, they would receive a fine no less than:

  1. $250 for a first offense
  2. $500 for a second offense
  3. $1,000 for a third offense

Additionally, hourly violations may each constitute a separate violation of the law and incur the appropriate fine accordingly.

However, resident John Schwartz, who lives near the Fenway Golf Club, voiced his concerns. Fenway often hosts Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, weddings, and other events that generate loud music. The festivities hosted at Fenway disturb residents living close to the Club, and Mr. Schwartz believes that “the definition of a noise disturbance should be the overriding factor, not the permit.” What’s to stop commercial establishments, like Fenway, from treating fines as a cost of business? He went on to suggest an addendum to the section on fines: “…three strikes, and you’re out. If they incur three fines… in a one year period, then they’re done with parties for the year. And that’s the only thing that will have an economic impact on them, to prevent them from just ignoring whatever you do with permits and decibel levels…”

The Board agreed that there need to be penalties for “bad behavior” going forward but worried that it’s a situation where you can punish the “actor” rather than the activity. The Board will host another work session on June 13th to discuss further changes to the proposed law that would address these issues. The Board intends to host a public hearing for the law on June 27th, but the plans have not been finalized.

Leave a Comment

Share on Myspace