Town of Coventry, RI
Kent County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
[HISTORY: Adopted by the Town Council of the Town of Coventry 9-27-1993 by Ord. No. 5-93-0190 (Ch. 10A of the 1991 Code). Amendments noted where applicable.]
GENERAL REFERENCES
Alarm systems — See Ch. 87.
Animals — See Ch. 97.
Boats and boating — See Ch. 102.
Parks and recreation areas — See Ch. 175.
Peace and good order — See Ch. 180.
Shows, performances and exhibitions — See Ch. 196.
Vehicles and traffic — See Ch. 231.

§ 169-1 Findings; statement of public policy.

The Town Council finds and declares that:
A. 
Excessive noise is a serious hazard to public health, welfare and quality of life in the Town.
B. 
The technology exists by which excessive noise can be substantially abated without undue expense or inconvenience.
C. 
Certain noise-producing equipment in this community is essential to the quality of life herein and should be allowed to continue at reasonable levels with moderate regulation.
D. 
Each person has a right to an environment reasonably free from noise which jeopardizes health or welfare or unnecessarily degrades the quality of life.
E. 
It is the declared policy of this Town to promote an environment free from excessive noise without unduly prohibiting, limiting or otherwise regulating the function of certain noise-producing equipment which is essential to the economy and quality of life of the community.

§ 169-2 Purpose; title; scope.

A. 
The purpose of this chapter is to establish standards for the control of excessive noise in the Town by setting maximum permissible sound levels for various activities.
B. 
This chapter may be cited as the "Noise Control Ordinance of the Town of Coventry."
C. 
This chapter shall apply to the control of all noise originating within the limits of the Town, excepting those areas where the Town Council has determined that, by reason of public acceptance of the activity producing a particular noise or noises, such noise is deemed acceptable to the residents of this Town.

§ 169-3 Standards for measurement of sound.

Decibel measurements shall be made with a sound level meter, which shall be an instrument in good operating condition, meeting the requirements of a Type I or Type II meter, as specified by ANSI Standard 1.4-1971. For purposes of this chapter, a sound level meter shall contain A-weighted scale and both fast and slow meter response capability.

§ 169-4 Definitions.

Unless otherwise expressly stated or the context clearly indicates a different intention, the following terms shall have the meanings shown. Definitions of technical terms used shall be obtained from publications of acoustical terminology issued by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) or its successor body.
AMBIENT SOUND LEVEL
The noise associated with a given environment, exclusive of a particular noise being tested, being usually a composite of sounds from many sources near and far, exclusive of intruding noises from isolated identifiable sources. For the purpose of this chapter, ambient noise level is the average over 15 minutes, excluding random or intermittent noises and the alleged offensive noise at the location and time of day at which a comparison with an alleged offensive noise is to be made.
A-SCALE (DBA)
The sound level in decibels measured using the A-weighted network as specified in ANSI 1.4-1971 for sound level meters. The level is designated dB(A) or dBA.
CONSTRUCTION
Any and all activity necessary or incidental to the erection, assembling, altering, installing, repair or equipping of buildings, roadways or utilities, including land-clearing, grading, excavating and filling.
CONTINUED DURATION
A continuous noise disturbance in excess of 15 minutes.
DECIBEL (DB)
A logarithmic and dimensionless unit of measure often used in describing the amplitude of sound, equal to 20 times the logarithm to the base 10 of the ratio of the pressure of the sound measured to the reference pressure, which is 20 micropascals (20 micronewtons per square meter).
DEMOLITION
Any dismantling, intentional destruction or removal of structures, utilities, public or private right-of-way surfaces or similar property.
DWELLING UNIT
A building or portion thereof regularly used for residential occupancy.
DYNAMIC BRAKING DEVICE
A device, used primarily on trucks and buses to convert the motor from an internal combustion engine to an air compressor for the purpose of vehicle braking without the use of wheel brakes.
EMERGENCY WORK
Work made necessary to restore property to a safe condition following a public calamity, work to restore public utilities or work required to protect persons or property from imminent exposure to danger.
IMPULSIVE SOUND
A sound of short duration, usually less than one second, with an abrupt onset and rapid decay. Examples of sources of impulsive sound include explosions, drop-forge impacts and the discharge of firearms.
LOT
Any area, tract or parcel of land owned by or under the lawful control of one distinct ownership. Abutting platted lots under the same ownership shall be considered a "lot." The lot line or boundary is an imaginary line at ground level which separates a lot and its vertical extension owned by one person from that owned by another.
MIXED USE
A dwelling unit or school located in a business or industrial zone.
MOTORCYCLE
Any motor vehicle having a saddle or seat for the use of the rider and designed to travel on not more than three wheels in contact with the ground. The terms shall include motorized bicycles and motor scooters.
MOTOR VEHICLE
Any motor-operated vehicle licensed for use on the public highways, but not including a motorcycle.
NARROW BAND SOUND
Sound characterized by normal listeners as having a predominant pitch or series of pitches; sound described by such listeners as "whine," "hiss," "toot" or "wail"; a sound whose frequencies occupy an octave band or less.
NOISE CONTROL OFFICE
The Town department having responsibility for the enforcement of this chapter.
NOISE DISTURBANCE
Any sound which:
A. 
Injures or endangers the safety or health of humans.
B. 
Annoys or disturbs a reasonable person of normal sensitivities.
C. 
Endangers or injures personal or real property.
NOISE-SENSITIVE ACTIVITIES
Activities which should be conducted under conditions of exceptional quiet, including, but not limited to, the operation of schools, libraries open to the public, churches, hospitals and nursing home.
NONCONFORMING USE
As defined by the Zoning Ordinance.
OFF-ROAD RECREATIONAL VEHICLE
Any motor vehicle, including road vehicles, but excepting watercraft, used off public roads for recreational purposes.
PERSON
Any individual, association, partnership or corporation, including any officer, department, bureau, agency or instrumentality of the United States, a state or any political subdivision of that state, including the Town.
PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS OF SOUND
A descriptive term, encompassing the steady, impulsive or narrow band property of the sound, the level of the sound and the extent to which it exceeds the background sound level.
PLAINLY AUDIBLE (SOUND)
Any sound for which the information content of that sound is unambiguously communicated to the listener, such as, but not limited to, understandable spoken speech, comprehension of whether a voice is raised or normal or comprehensible music rhythms.
POWERED MODEL VEHICLE
Any self-propelled airborne, waterborne or landborne model plane, vessel or vehicle which is not designed to carry persons, including, but not limited to, any model airplane, boat, car or rocket.
PUBLIC RIGHT-OF-WAY
Any street, avenue, highway, boulevard, alley, easement or public space which is owned by or controlled by a public government entity.
PUBLIC SPACE
Any real property, including any structure thereon, which is owned or controlled by a governmental entity.
PURE TONE
Any sound which can be distinctly heard as a single pitch or set of single pitches.
REAL PROPERTY BOUNDARY
An imaginary line along the ground surface, and its vertical extension, which separates the real property owned by one person from that owned by another person, but not including intrabuilding real property divisions.
RECEIVING LAND USE
For the purpose of this chapter, the use or occupancy of the property which receives the transmission of sound as defined in this section.
RESIDENTIAL
Any property on which is located a building or structure used wholly or partially for living or sleeping purposes.
SOUND
An oscillation in pressure, particle displacement, particle velocity or other physical parameter in a medium with internal forces that cause compression and rarefaction of that medium. The description of sound may include any characteristic of such sound, including duration, intensity and frequency.
SOUND LEVEL
The weighted sound pressure level obtained by the use of a sound level meter and frequency weighting network, such as A, B or C, as specified in American National Standards Institute specifications for sound level meters (ANSI SI.4-1971, or the latest approved revision thereof). If the frequency weighting employed is not indicated, the A-weighting shall apply.
SOUND LEVEL METER
An instrument which includes a microphone, amplifier, RMS detector, integrator or time averager, output or display meter and weighting networks used to measure sound pressure levels, which complies with American National Standards Institute Standard 1.4-1971.
SOUND PRESSURE
The instantaneous difference between the actual pressure and the average or barometric pressure at a given point in space as produced by sound energy.
SOUND PRESSURE LEVEL
Twenty times the logarithm to the base 10 of the ratio of the RMS sound pressure to the reference pressure of 20 micronewtons per square meter (20 x 106 n/m2). The sound pressure level is denoted LP or SPL and is expressed in decibels.
STEADY SOUND
A sound whose level remains essentially constant (+/-2 dBA) during the period of observation when measured with the fast response of the sound level meter.
USED or OCCUPIED
Includes the words "intended, designed or arranged to be used or occupied."
WATERCRAFT
Any contrivance used or capable of being used as a means of transportation or recreation on the water.
ZONE
A classification of area of the Town as described in the Coventry Zoning Ordinance.

§ 169-5 Exceptions.

The provisions of this chapter shall not apply to:
A. 
The emission of sound for the purpose of alerting persons to the existence of an emergency.
B. 
The emission of sound in the performance of emergency work.
C. 
Noncommercial public speaking and public assembly activities conducted on any private property public space or public right-of-way, except those activities controlled by § 169-11.
D. 
The unamplified human voice.
E. 
Agricultural activities.
F. 
The emission of sound in the performance of military operations, exclusive of travel by individuals to or from military duty, except airports which are regulated under another authority.
G. 
The emission of sound in the discharge of weapons or in fireworks displays licensed by the Town from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.
H. 
The emission of sound in the operation of snow-removal equipment.
I. 
The emission of sound relative to permitted construction and demolition activities, provided that such activity does not occur between the hours of 9:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m.
J. 
The emission of sound in a residential area made in the course of the maintenance of a dwelling and/or property from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.

§ 169-6 Noise disturbances prohibited.

No person shall make, continue or cause to be made or continued, except as permitted, any noise disturbance, as defined in this chapter, or any noise in excess of the limits for such noise established in this chapter.

§ 169-7 Maximum permissible sound levels; exceptions.

A. 
Maximum permissible sound levels. With the exception of sound levels elsewhere specifically authorized or allowed in this chapter, the following are the maximum permissible sound levels allowed at or within the real property boundary of a receiving land use:
Sound Levels by Receiving Land Use
Zoning Category of Receiving Land Use
Time
Sound Level Limit
(dBA)
Residential and open space
At all times
65
Business (neighborhood, waterfront, general)
At all times
65
Business (heavy, planned and industrial)
At all times
70
B. 
Correction for character of sound. For any source of sound which emits a pure tone, the maximum sound level limits set forth in Subsection A shall be reduced by five dBA.
C. 
Exceptions. The provisions of this section shall not apply to activities covered by §§ 169-8, 169-11, 169-12, 169-13, 169-14 and 169-18.

§ 169-8 Emergency signaling devices.

A. 
No person shall operate or permit the intentional sounding outdoors of any fire, burglar or civil defense alarm, siren, whistle or similar stationary emergency signaling device, except for emergency purposes or for testing, as provided in Subsection B below.
B. 
Testing of a stationary emergency signaling device shall occur at the same time of day each time the test is performed, but not before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m. Any such testing shall use only the minimum cycle test time. In no case shall the test time exceed 60 seconds.

§ 169-9 Specific activities regulated.

A. 
Loading and unloading; exception. No person shall so load, unload, open, close or handle crates, containers, garbage cans and dumpsters, building materials or similar objects outdoors between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. the following morning so as to create a noise disturbance across a residential real property boundary or within a noise-sensitive area. This section shall not apply to activities covered by § 169-12.
B. 
Vehicle or motorboat repairs and testing. No person shall repair, rebuild, modify or test any motor vehicle, motorcycle or motorboat in such a manner as to cause a noise disturbance across a residential real property boundary or outdoors within a noise-sensitive area.
C. 
Powered model vehicles. No person shall operate or permit the operation of powered model vehicles in a public or private space out-of-doors or within a noise-sensitive area between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m.

§ 169-10 Musical instruments and similar devices.

No person shall operate, play or permit the operation or playing of any musical instrument or similar device which produces sound in such a manner so as to create a noise disturbance across a residential real property boundary or outdoors within a noise-sensitive area.

§ 169-11 Regulation of sound equipment and sound-amplifying equipment.

A. 
Generally. Except for activities open to the public and for which a permit has been issued by the Town under this chapter, no person shall operate, play or permit the operation or playing of any radio, television, phonograph, stereo, tape deck/recorder or other similar device so as to:
(1) 
Create a noise disturbance across a residential real property boundary outdoors within a noise-sensitive area.
(2) 
Create a noise disturbance 50 feet from the device, when operated in or on a motor vehicle on a public right-of-way or public space or in a boat on public waters.
(3) 
Create a noise disturbance to any person other than the operator of the device when operated by any passenger or a common carrier.
B. 
Sound equipment; permit required.
(1) 
No person shall use, operate or cause to be used or operated any radio, record player, tape deck or other device for producing or amplifying sounds, hereafter referred to as "sound equipment," upon any premises, public or private, if the sound therefrom is plainly audible from any public street or public place within the Town, unless the person:
(a) 
First obtains a permit in accordance with this chapter;
(b) 
Complies with the conditions imposed by the permit, including the maximum permitted sound level shown therein; and
(c) 
Complies with all other applicable provisions of this chapter.
(2) 
Furthermore, sound equipment shall not include:
(a) 
Equipment used for public health and safety purposes.
(b) 
Church or clock carillons, bells or chimes.
(c) 
Parades or processions for which a parade permit has been issued, provided that the conditions of the permit are complied with.
(d) 
Automobile radios, tape decks or players or other standard automobile equipment used and intended for the use and enjoyment of occupants, provided that the sound emitting therefrom is not audible for more than 50 feet from this vehicle.
(e) 
Recorded music used in a nonresidential district in conjunction with a civil or religious celebration.
(f) 
Unamplified live music provided, sponsored or funded, in whole or in part, by a governmental entity.
(g) 
Mobile radio or telephone signaling devices.
C. 
Places of public entertainment. No person shall operate, play or permit the operation or playing of any radio, television, phonograph, drum, musical instrument, sound amplifier or similar device which produces, reproduces or amplifies sound in any place of public entertainment at a sound level greater than 90 dB(A), as read by the slow response on a sound level meter, at any point therein that is normally occupied by a customer, unless a conspicuous and legible sign is located outside such place, near each public entrance, stating "Warning: Sound levels within may cause permanent hearing impairment."

§ 169-12 Motorized vehicles.

A. 
No person shall operate the engine providing motive power or an auxiliary engine of a motor vehicle with a manufacturer's gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or more for a consecutive period longer than 20 minutes, provided that the sound level emitted by the motor vehicle exceeds the maximum permissible sound levels as prescribed by § 169-7, while such vehicle is standing and located within 150 feet of property zoned and used for residential purposes, except where such vehicle is standing within a completely enclosed structure. This section shall not apply to delivery or pickup vehicles that require the operation of the engine to unload or load their vending loads.
B. 
Noise limits in relation to speed limits.
(1) 
No person shall operate within the speed limits specified in this section either a motor vehicle or a combination of vehicles of a type subject to registration, at any time or under any condition of grade, load, acceleration or deceleration in such manner as to exceed the noise limit listed hereinbelow for the category of motor vehicle, based on the legal speed limit, posted or not, of the road or way on which operated, such noise to be measured at a distance of not more than 50 feet from the center line of travel under test procedures established Subsection C below. In the event that the distance of the measuring instrument from the center line of travel is less than 25 feet, such listed noise limits shall be corrected to reflect the equivalent noise limits for the actual distance.
Noise Limit in Relation to Legal Speed Limit
Type of Vehicle
35 mph or less
Over 35 mph
Any motor vehicle with a manufacturer's gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or more and any combination of vehicles towed by such motor vehicle
86 dB(A)
90 dB(A)
Any motorcycle
82 dB(A)
86 dB(A)
Any other motor vehicle and any combination of motor vehicles towed by such motor vehicle
76 dB(A)
82 dB(A)
(2) 
This section applies to the total noise from a vehicle or combination of vehicles and shall not be construed as limiting or precluding the enforcement of any other provisions of this Code relating to motor vehicle muffler or noise control.
C. 
The measurement of sound or noise shall be made with a sound level meter meeting the standards prescribed by the American National Standards Institute or its successor body. The instrument shall be maintained in calibration and good working order. A calibration check shall be made of the system at the time of any noise measurement. Measurements recorded shall be taken so as to provide a proper representation of the noise source. The microphone during measurement shall be positioned so as not to create any unnatural enhancement or diminution of the measured noise. A windscreen for the microphone shall be used when required. Traffic, aircraft and other transportation noise sources and other background noises shall not be considered in taking measurements except where such background noise interferes with the primary noise being measured.
D. 
Every motor vehicle and motor boat shall at all times be equipped with a muffler in good working order and in constant operation to prevent excessive or unusual noise. No person shall use a muffler cutout, bypass or similar device upon a motor vehicle on a highway.
E. 
Furthermore:
(1) 
No person shall operate a recreational vehicle or permit the operation of one or more recreational vehicles, individually, in a group or in an organized racing event, whether on public or private property, in such a manner that the sound level resulting from such operation exceeds:
(a) 
From the effective date of this chapter through January 1, 1994, 70 dB(A) for a total of six minutes in any continuous one-hour period; and
(b) 
From and after January 1, 1994, 73 dB(A) for a total of three minutes in any continuous one-hour period; or exceeds 90 dB(A) for any period of time during such operation. Sound levels which exceed the limits described in this section at the real property boundary of the receiving land use shall be deemed a noise disturbance.
(2) 
No person shall permit the conducting of any part of an organized racing event which involves a contest between or among recreational vehicles on public or private property between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 10:00 a.m. the following morning.

§ 169-13 Construction tools and equipment.

A. 
No person shall operate or permit the operation of any tools or equipment in construction, drilling or demolition work or in preventive maintenance work for public service utilities between the hours of 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m., in any manner which creates a noise disturbance as defined in § 169-4 across a residential real property boundary or within a noise-sensitive area.
B. 
The terms of this section shall not apply to:
(1) 
Emergency work or repair work performed by or for governmental entities or public service utilities for public safety and welfare.
(2) 
The use of domestic power tools or equipment subject to §§ 169-4 and 169-6.

§ 169-14 Stationary nonemergency signaling devices.

A. 
No person shall operate or permit the sounding of any stationary bell, chime, siren, whistle or similar device, intended primarily for nonemergency purposes, from any place for more than one minute in an hourly period.
B. 
Devices used in conjunction with places of religious worship shall be exempt from the operation of this section.
C. 
Exemptions for sound sources covered by this section, but not exempted under Subsection B above, may be granted by the appropriate authority under the procedure set forth in § 169-9.

§ 169-15 Animal noises.

No person shall own an animal which frequently or for continued duration howls, barks, meows, squawks or makes other sounds which create a noise disturbance across a residential real property boundary or within a noise-sensitive area.

§ 169-16 Powers and duties of Police Department; enforcement.

A. 
The noise control program established by this chapter shall be implemented, administered and enforced by the Police Department of the Town.
B. 
To implement and enforce this chapter, the Police Department shall have the additional power to:
(1) 
Conduct research, monitoring and other studies related to sound.
(2) 
Conduct programs of public education regarding the causes, effects and general methods of abatement and control of noise, as well as the actions prohibited by this chapter and the procedures for reporting violations.
(3) 
Coordinate the noise control activities of all municipal departments.
(4) 
Review public and private projects, including those subject to mandatory review or approval by other departments, for compliance with this chapter if these projects are likely to cause sound in violation of this chapter.
(5) 
Upon presentation of proper credentials, enter and inspect any private property or place and inspect any report or records at any reasonable time when granted permission by the owner or by some other person with authority to act for the owner.
(6) 
Issue sound variances pursuant to the provisions of § 169-18.

§ 169-17 Actions of departments and agencies to further policy.

All departments and agencies of the Town shall carry out their programs in furtherance of the policy of this chapter.

§ 169-18 Sound permits.

A. 
Administration.
(1) 
The Chief of the Police Department or his designee shall be the administrative officer of this chapter and shall have the authority, consistent with this section, to grant sound permits.
(2) 
If, in granting a permit, it shall be determined that bringing the source of sound or activity for which the permit is sought into strict compliance with this chapter would constitute an unreasonable hardship on the applicant, the community or on other persons, the Chief of Police shall balance the hardship of not allowing the permit against any adverse impact on health, safety and welfare of persons and property affected which would result from its issuance. Applicants for sound permits are required to submit any information the Chief of Police may reasonably require. A determination shall be rendered, in writing, by the Chief of Police within 10 days of receipt of a signed application.
(3) 
The Chief of Police shall grant the permit (with or without conditions), deny the permit or refer the application to the Director of Public Safety for public hearing. An application shall be referred in this manner only when it is determined that there is sufficient reason to warrant a hearing in order to assure due process. The issuance of a sound permit requires posting of the permit by the Police Department, within 24 hours of such issuance, in clear public view on the site. The permit shall remain in place as posted until the expiration of the appeal period.
B. 
Appeal. Any party claiming to be adversely affected by the granting or denial of a sound permit may file a written, signed statement of appeal with the Director of Public Safety within 15 days of that determination by the Chief of Police or within 15 days of the initial emission of the subject sound. The Director of Public Safety shall, in conformance with the provisions of this chapter, reverse or affirm, wholly or in part, the determination from which the appeal was filed and may modify that determination.
C. 
Referral; adversity. In the case of a referral by the Chief of Police, or an appeal by a party claiming to be adversely affected, the Director of Public Safety shall schedule a public hearing, shall sit as the hearing officer and shall have all of the powers of the administrative officer of this chapter. The appellant (or, in the case of a referral, the applicant) shall be required to give notice by certified mail, return receipt requested, to property owners within 100 feet of the proposed noise source at least 10 days prior to the scheduled hearing. In hearing an appeal, the Director of Public Safety shall consider the same criteria outlined in Subsection A above. A decision shall be rendered within 10 days of the closure of the public hearing. This decision shall be placed on public record with the Town Clerk, together with specific reasons for the rendering.

§ 169-19 Violations and penalties.

Any person found to be in violation of this chapter shall be punished as follows:
A. 
The first offense shall be punished by the issuance of a written warning to cease and desist the violation.
B. 
The second offense shall be punished by a fine of $100.
C. 
The third offense and all subsequent offenses during the same calendar year shall be punished by a fine of $200.
D. 
Any entertainment license holder convicted of a fourth offense in one calendar year shall suffer a three-month suspension of said entertainment license.