East Lyme - Residents at a public hearing Wednesday were divided on a proposed ordinance that would limit the noise a property owner could make.
Some at the hearing, attended by more than 20 residents, said the ordinance is needed to promote the town's quality of life and preserve residents' well-being. Others criticized it as a costly and unnecessary measure, saying it could lead to possible lawsuits stemming from enforcement.
The ordinance would limit noise to specified decibel levels for residential and nonresidential properties and for daytime and nighttime hours. But the ordinance would not regulate certain sounds, including those arising from farm equipment, train horns, school bells and government-mandated warning devices. Daytime construction, snow removal equipment and sounds arising from emergency situations would also be exempt.
At previous Board of Selectmen meetings, resident Robert Scheel had implored the town to adopt the noise ordinances because of noise from ATVs in his neighborhood.
During the hearing, resident Greg Decker said he has heard noises from parties and radios late at night and has called the police, who told him they could do nothing about the noise. He said he and his neighbors are "in full support of this ordinance."
But other residents were strongly opposed.
"I am 100 percent against the noise ordinance," said resident Ron Rando. "We do not need any more laws or ordinances against this town." He said the $5,500 for publishing the legal advertisement was a "waste of taxpayers' money" and that the town could already send the police to address disturbances.
Scheel said he contacted the state about noise disturbances by his home and was advised that he could either seek protection through additional town ordinances or take civil action.
Addressing some opposition to the ordinance at Wednesday's meeting, he said it would be unreasonable to call the police simply over a noisy vehicle passing by, but the noise he is describing occurs adjacent to his house. "You can be sitting there late at night, and the noise shakes you," he said.
He added that the dozens of towns with noise ordinances hadn't had any problems with lawsuits.
Some residents sympathized but wondered why the police couldn't use existing statutes or cite the neighbors for violations, such as breach of peace.
Some residents also said that the town shouldn't have to solve a civil dispute through the ordinance. Scheel responded that he has heard many other complaints from other people.
Selectman Kevin Seery, also a resident trooper in Salem, a town without a noise ordinance, said there are state laws for noise for enforcing public disturbances.
The selectmen took no action on the proposal Wednesday and decided to continue the discussion at the next meeting. The selectmen favored seeking input from the resident trooper and further clarifying technical issues.