[HISTORY: Adopted by the County Council of Talbot County 8-28-2018 by Bill No. 1403. Amendments noted where applicable.]
Purpose. The purpose of this chapter is to provide for the abatement and control of noise levels throughout Talbot County so as to promote public health, safety, welfare, and economic well-being for the residents of the County, and the use and enjoyment of both public and private property.
To reduce the threat to health, safety, welfare, and economic value when excessive noise impacts a community by defining the circumstances under which such conditions may be considered a threat; and
To abate excessive noise conditions to promote the health, safety and welfare of the residents of Talbot County, and to promote the maximum use and enjoyment of property; and
To provide authority and enforcement measures for such efforts.
According to documented studies, it has been determined that noise above certain levels, for certain periods of time, is harmful to the health of humans. Although precise levels at which all adverse health effects occur have not definitely been ascertained, it is known that one's well-being can be affected by noise through loss of sleep, speech interference, hearing impairment and a variety of other psychological and physiological factors. The establishment of ambient noise standards or goals must provide margins of safety in reaching conclusions based on available data that relates noise exposure to health and welfare effects with due consideration to technical and economic factors.
Noise levels measured with a sound-level meter meeting the most recently published standards of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI S1.4) American Standards Specification for General Purpose Sound Level Meters. The instrument shall be set to the A-weighted response scale and the meter to the slow response. Measurement shall be based on an average reading.
Measurements shall be conducted in accordance with ANSI S1.2, American Standard Method for the Physical Measurements of Sound.
Nondecibel. This standard is only applied if a noise meter is not readily available to a noise control officer or where a noise cannot be measured under the decibel measurement standards herein.
Noise shall not exceed the decibel or nondecibel sound limits indicated in this chapter beyond the noise source property line. Measurements may be made at any point along or adjacent to a lot line of the noise source property or at any point on any receiving property when measurement at the noise source property line is not practical or feasible, as determined by the noise control officer. Measurements may be conducted at any point or multiple points for the determination of identity of single or multiple sources.
It shall be unlawful within the County to make, continue to make, permit, or cause to be made or continued a noise disturbance or a noise level in excess of 60 dBA during the daytime or 55 dBA during the nighttime, except as specifically stated herein.
Prominent discrete tones, cyclically varying sound, or periodic or repetitive noises shall not exceed a sound level that is five dBA lower than the applicable level allowed in § 92-4A above.
The provisions of this chapter do not apply to devices used solely for the purpose of warning, protecting, or alerting the public, or some segment thereof, or the existence of an emergency situation or operation.
Certain noise sources or unintended noise, in the regular course of residential activities, (e.g., wind chimes, garage door) as determined by the noise control officers, will not be investigated for compliance with this chapter.
The provisions of this chapter do not apply to the following:
Household tools and portable appliances in normal usage and in proper operating condition. This does not include noise caused by amplified music devices.
Operation of garden and lawn maintenance equipment between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 1/2 hour after sunset.
Air conditioning or heat pump equipment used to cool or heat housing on residential property. For this equipment, a person may not cause or permit noise levels which exceed 70 dBA for air-conditioning equipment at receiving residential property and 75 dBA for heat pump equipment at receiving residential property.
Backup generators being used during power outages resulting from storms and other emergencies.
Noise emanated by agricultural, livestock and timber operations, and related support operations and machinery. Related operations include, but are not limited to, production and management of tillage, fertilization, pest control, crop or timber harvesting, marketing, saw mills, grain dryers, livestock, crops, vegetation, and soil including compost, feeding, housing, and maintaining of farm animals and handling their by-products. Related machinery includes, but is not limited to, motor vehicles, tractors and all-terrain vehicles being used for such operations.
Motor vehicles and all-terrain vehicles being used for commercial use, landscaping and/or yard work.
Motor vehicles licensed for use on public roads when used in a manner consistent with the Transportation Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland. This does not include noise caused by stereos, radios or other similar devices located within or on motor vehicles.
Aircraft and related airport operations at airports licensed by the Maryland Aviation Administration.
Boats on state waters or motor vehicles on state lands under the jurisdiction of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
Sounds of pile-driving equipment from 7:00 a.m. to 1/2 hour after sunset or 7:30 p.m., whichever is later.
Sound created by vehicles used for, or in the act of, trash and recycling collection.
Sound created by temporary public gatherings, such as sporting, amusement, and entertainment events operating according to terms and conditions authorized by a temporary use certificate or other approval issued by Talbot County. This includes but is not limited to, athletic contests, carnivals, fairs, parades, festivals, or other public celebrations.
Sound created by events on the property of a public or private school that have been sanctioned by such school.
Construction and repair work on public property.
The sounding of bells, chimes, or carillons while being used for religious purposes or in conjunction with religious services or for national or state celebrations or public holidays in such a manner as would otherwise cause a noise disturbance.
Recreational firearm shooting and hunting activities as regulated or licensed by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
Fireworks displays and celebratory cannon fire permitted by the Office of the State Fire Marshal.
Activities for which the regulation of sound has been preempted by federal or state law.
The following acts and the causing thereof are declared to be a violation of this chapter:
Operating or permitting to be operated an off-road internal combustion engine powered vehicle for recreation purposes, including, but not limited to, a dirt bike, an all-terrain vehicle, a go-cart, a snowmobile, or a similar vehicle, on private property closer than 300 feet to a neighboring residence or the associated curtilage, without the written permission of the affected resident, unless it can be demonstrated to the noise control officers that the vehicle can be operated within the noise limits specified in § 92-4.
Any owner or person in control of any animal or bird who allows or otherwise permits any such animal to bark, howl, bay, meow, squawk, quack, crow or make such other sound when such sound by its volume or frequency unreasonably disturbs or interferes with the peace of any person for more than 15 minutes in any one-hour period of any day, or is documented by three or more separate episodes in a sequential seven-day period. The provisions of this subsection shall not apply to any animal that, at the time of the sound or sound generation, was responding to pain or injury, or was in the act of protecting from a perceived or actual threat; when the animal is a service dog that is engaged in the performance of its duties at the time of making the sound; when part of a bona fide agricultural operation; when related to activities regulated by the Department of Natural Resources related to hunting.
Enforcement. Violations of this chapter may be, but need not be, complaint-based.
Primary noise control officers have the authority to investigate suspected violations of any section of this chapter and pursue enforcement activities.
If a primary noise control officer is unavailable, a secondary noise control officer has the authority to investigate suspected violations of any section of this chapter that do not require the use of a sound-level meter (i.e., noise disturbance, times of day, and/or distance determinations) and pursue enforcement activities.
Talbot County Animal Control Officers shall have the principal authority to investigate suspected violations of § 92-6A(2) of this chapter and pursue enforcement activities of that section.
Noise control officers may cooperate with enforcement personnel of other agencies or municipalities in investigating compliance with one another's ordinances regarding noise compliance.
The departments have discretion to determine which noise cases will be investigated by which department. A noise complaint may be referred to another municipality, county or state agency as appropriate.
Noise investigations and sound measurements need not be conducted at the exact time of a noise complaint.
A violation of any provision of this chapter shall be cause for issuance of a warning, or a notice of violation and notice of penalty assessment as set forth herein, or other actions or mitigation measures as required by this chapter.
If a person fails to comply with a noise control officer's decision that a violation exists and must cease, immediate enforcement shall proceed in accordance with this chapter and/or the noise control officer's enforcement process.
The enforcing agency has discretion to provide adequate time for a property or business owner to implement a noise mitigation measure.
For the purposes of this section, agriculture and residential includes all uses and related or accessory uses as listed in Chapter 190, Table IV-1, § 190-25, of the Talbot County Code. Other uses includes institutional, commercial, industrial, marine, utility, transportation and communication and their accessory use as listed in Chapter 190, Table IV-1, § 190-25 of the Talbot County Code.
The noise control officer shall send a copy of the notice of violation and penalty assessment to the approving authority(ies), as applicable (e.g., Short-Term Rental Review Board, Liquor Board, Board of Appeals, Planning Commission or Planning Director). The notice may include a recommendation to suspend or revoke a license or approval in accordance with the applicable regulations for such action or may include a requirement or recommendation for noise mitigation.
In addition to, and not in lieu of, the penalties prescribed in this chapter, the County Attorney may apply to the Circuit Court for an injunction or declaratory judgment against the continuing violation of any of the provisions of this chapter and may seek any other remedy of relief authorized by law.
Installation and use of noise suppression and measurement devices and systems may be required pursuant to the Talbot County Code or enforcement action.
No person shall cause, suffer, allow, or permit the removal, disconnection, or disabling of any noise-suppression device or system which has been installed on or in proximity to any noise source pursuant to the Talbot County Code or enforcement thereof.
No person shall defeat the designed purpose of any noise-suppression or measurement system or device by installing therein or thereon any part or component which does not meet the minimum designed specifications for that system or device.
No noise source shall be operated with its noise-suppression or measurement system or device removed or otherwise rendered inoperable.
Whenever any provision of this chapter conflicts with any other provision of law, rule, or regulation covering the same subject matter, whether set forth in this chapter or elsewhere, that provision which is more restrictive or imposes the higher standard or requirement shall govern.
Rules of construction.
Words used in the present tense include the future; words in the singular number include the plural, and words in the plural number include the singular unless the natural construction of the wording indicates otherwise.
The words "shall" and "must" are mandatory, and the words "may" and "should" are permissive.
As used in this chapter, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
- A-WEIGHTED SOUND
- A unit for describing the amplitude of sound as measured on a sound-level meter using the A-weighting network.
- The American National Standards Institute or its successor bodies.
- Any site preparation, assembly, erection, repair, alteration, or similar activity.
- The enclosed land surrounding a house or dwelling and includes all areas maintained in lawn or horticultural plantings and may be bounded by a fence or wall, but would not typically include areas more distant than 300 feet from the dwelling unless those areas were horticulturally maintained and routinely used as areas of personal refuge, or supported accessory structures that were routinely utilized.
- For the purposes of this chapter, "daytime" shall mean from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
- DECIBEL (dB)
- A unit of measure equal to 10 times the logarithm to the base 10 of the ratio of a particular sound pressure squared to a standard reference pressure squared. For the purposes of this chapter, 20 micropascals shall be the standard reference pressure.
- DECIBEL A-WEIGHTED (dBA)
- The sound level in decibels determined by the A-weighting network of a sound-level meter or by a calculation from octave band or one-third band data.
- For the purposes of this chapter only, this term shall mean the Department of Planning and Zoning, Office of Permits and Inspections, the Talbot County Sheriff's Office and the Maryland State Police. In certain circumstances as defined herein, Department shall include the Talbot County Animal Control Officer.
- For the purposes of this chapter, "nighttime" shall mean all times outside of daytime.
- The intensity, frequency, duration, and character of sound, including sound and vibration of subaudible frequencies.
- NOISE CONTROL OFFICER, PRIMARY
- A Talbot County Code Compliance Officer.
- NOISE CONTROL OFFICER, SECONDARY
- A law enforcement officer having jurisdiction in Talbot County.
- NOISE DISTURBANCE
- Sounds of sufficient volume, character and duration which unreasonably annoy, disturb, injure or endanger the comfort, health, safety, welfare, or environment of others, in the opinion of a Talbot County noise control officer.
- Noise levels that can be heard clearly by a person using his or her unaided hearing faculties. Only those noise levels that reach noise disturbance are regulated herein.
- PERIODIC NOISE
- Noise possessing a repetitive on and off characteristic.
- Any individual, group of individuals, firm, partnership, voluntary association or private, public or municipal corporation, or political subdivision of any government entity responsible for the use of the property.
- PROMINENT DISCRETE TONE
- Any sound that can be distinctly heard as a single pitch or a set of single pitches.
- SOUND LEVEL
- In decibels, the weighted sound pressure level measured by the use of a sound-level meter satisfying the requirements of ASNI S1.4 1971 "Specifications for Sound Level Meters." Sound level and noise level are synonymous. The weighting employed shall always be specified.
- Any person, animal, equipment, location or property, real or personal, generating noise contributing to noise pollution, or noise disturbance.
- The time of apparent descent of the sun below the horizon.