Borough of Columbia, PA
Lancaster County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
[HISTORY: Adopted by the Borough Council of the Borough of Columbia 1-4-1995 by Ord. No. 659 (Ch. 56B of the 1971 Code). Amendments noted where applicable.]
GENERAL REFERENCES
Animals — See Ch. 82.
Transient retail business — See Ch. 198.
Vehicles and traffic — See Ch. 207.
Zoning — See Ch. 220.
A. 
The Council of the Borough of Columbia finds that:
(1) 
Excessive noise and sound degrade the environment of the Borough of Columbia to a degree which:
(a) 
Is harmful and detrimental to the health, welfare and safety of its inhabitants.
(b) 
Interferes with the comfortable enjoyment of life, property and recreation and with the conduct and operation of business and industry.
(c) 
Causes nuisances.
(2) 
No one has the right to create such excessive noise and/or sound.
(3) 
Effective control and elimination of excessive noise and/or sound is essential to the furtherance of the health and welfare of the inhabitants of the Borough of Columbia and to the conduct of the normal pursuits of life, recreation, commerce and industrial activity.
B. 
It is the intent and purpose of this chapter to prevent excessive noise and/or sound and to limit, control and eliminate excessive noise and/or sound in general from whatever source.
This chapter shall also be known as the "Borough of Columbia Noise Control Ordinance."
The following words, terms and phrases, when used in this chapter, shall have the meanings herein given, except where the context clearly indicates a different meaning. All terminology used in this chapter, not defined below, shall be in conformance with the applicable publications of the American National Standards Institute [ANSI S1.1 - 1960 (R1971) and its revisions] or its successor body.
AMBIENT NOISE
The all-encompassing noise associated with a given environment, being usually a composite of sounds from many sources near and far.
A-WEIGHTED SOUND LEVEL
The sound-pressure level, in decibels, as measured on a sound-level meter using the A-weighting network. The level so read is designated "dB(A)."
CONSTRUCTION OPERATION
The erection, repair, renovation, demolition or removal of any building or structure and the excavation, filling, grading and regulation of lots in connection therewith.
DECIBEL (dB)
A unit for measuring the sound-pressure level, 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).
EMERGENCY
Any occurrence or set of circumstances involving actual or imminent physical trauma or property damage.
EMERGENCY WORK
Any work performed for the purpose of preventing or alleviating the physical trauma or property damage threatened or caused by an emergency.
IMPULSIVE SOUND
Sound of short duration, usually less than one second, with an abrupt onset and rapid decay. Examples of impulsive sound include explosions, drop-forge impacts and the discharge of firearms.
MUFFLER OR SOUND DISSIPATIVE DEVICE
A device designed or used for decreasing or abating the level of sound escaping from an engine or machinery system.
NOISE
Any sound which annoys or disturbs humans or which causes or tends to cause an adverse psychological or physiological effect on humans.
NOISE DISTURBANCE
Any sound which:
A. 
Endangers or injures the safety or health of humans or animals.
B. 
Annoys or disturbs a reasonable person of normal sensitivities.
C. 
Endangers or injures personal or real property.
D. 
Is in excess of the sound levels by zoning districts established herein.
PERSON
Any individual, association, partnership or corporation and includes any officer, employee, department, agency or instrumentality of a state or any political subdivision of a state. Whenever used in any clause prescribing and imposing a penalty, "person" includes the individual members, partners, officers and managers, or any of them, of partnerships and associations and, as for corporations, the officers and managers thereof or any of them.
POWERED MODEL VEHICLE
Any self-propelled airborne, waterborne or landborne plane, vessel or vehicle which is not designed to carry persons, including but not limited to any model airplane, boat, car or rocket.
PROPERTY LINE (BOUNDARY)
An imaginary line drawn through the points of contact of adjoining lands, apartments, condominiums, townhouses and duplexes owned, rented or leased by different persons, a demarcation or a line of separation of properties, and also, for any two or more buildings sharing common grounds, the line drawn midway between any two such buildings. All areas devoted to public rights-of-way shall be deemed to be across the property line. For the purpose of this definition, the "property line" includes all points on a plane formed by projecting the property line in a manner deemed appropriate by the enforcing police officer.
PUBLIC RIGHT-OF-WAY
Any street, avenue, boulevard, highway, sidewalk, alley or similar place which is owned or controlled by a governmental entity.
PUBLIC SPACE
Any real property or structures thereon which are owned or controlled by a governmental entity.
PURE TONE
Any sound which can be heard as a single pitch or a set of single pitches. For the purpose of this chapter, a pure tone shall exist if the 1/3 octave band sound-pressure level in the band with the tone exceeds the arithmetic average of the sound-pressure levels of the two contiguous octave bands by five dB's for center frequencies of 500 hertz and above and by eight dB's for center frequencies between 160 and 400 hertz and by 15 dB's for center frequencies less than or equal to 125 hertz.
REAL PROPERTY
All land, whether publicly or privately owned, whether improved or not improved, with or without structures, exclusive of any areas devoted to public rights-of-way.
SOUND
An oscillation in pressure, particle displacement, particle velocity or other physical parameter, in a medium with internal forces that causes compression and rarefaction of that medium, or the superposition of such propagated oscillation which evokes an auditory sensation. The description of "sound" may include any characteristics 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 the American National Standards Institute specifications for sound-level meters (ANSI S1.4-1971 or the latest 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 meter and any applicable weighting network used to measure sound-pressure levels which meets or exceeds the requirement for a Type I or Type II sound level as specified in American National Standards Institute Specification S1.4-1971. The manufacturer's published indication of compliance with such specifications shall be prima facie evidence of such compliance.
ZONING DISTRICTS
The land use districts established by the Zoning Ordinance of the Borough, as codified in Chapter 220 of the Code of the Borough of Columbia, Pennsylvania, and all subsequent amendments thereto.
A. 
Noise disturbance prohibited. In addition to the specific prohibitions outlined in this chapter, no person shall make, continue or cause to be made or continued any noise disturbance, nor shall any person suffer, allow or permit any noise disturbance to be made or continued from or at any property, whether real or personal, that is subject to such person's right to control.
B. 
Specific prohibitions. The following acts, and the causing thereof, are declared to be noise disturbances and are therefore in violation of this chapter:
(1) 
Radios, television sets, musical instruments and similar devices. Operating, playing or permitting the operation or playing of any radio, television, phonograph, drum, musical instrument, sound amplifier, automobile radio, automobile stereo, high-fidelity equipment or similar device which produces, reproduces or amplifies sound:
(a) 
At any time in such a manner as to cause a noise disturbance across a property line (boundary), or between the hours of 9:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m. so as to create a noise disturbance.
(b) 
In such a manner as to create a noise disturbance across a property line (boundary) or at 50 feet from such device, whichever is less, when the device is operated in or on a motor vehicle or hand carried on a public right-of-way or public space.
(c) 
In such a manner as to create a noise disturbance to any person other than the operator of the device.
(2) 
Yelling and shouting, etc. Engaging in loud or raucous yelling, shouting, hooting, whistling or singing:
(a) 
On the public streets between the hours of 9:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m.
(b) 
At any time or place in such a manner as to create a noise disturbance.
(3) 
Construction.
(a) 
Operating or permitting the operation of any tools or equipment used in construction operations, drilling or demolition work:
[1] 
Between the hours of 9:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. the following day on weekdays and Saturdays, or at any time on Sundays or legal holidays, such that the sound therefrom creates a noise disturbance across a residential real property line (boundary), except for emergency work.
[2] 
At any other time, such that the sound level at or across a real property line (boundary) exceeds 85 dB(A) for a period of one hour.
(b) 
This subsection shall not apply to the use of domestic power tools subject to § 149-4B(4) hereof.
(4) 
Domestic power tools. Operating or permitting the operation of any mechanically-powered saw, drill, sander, grinder, lawn or garden tool, snowblower or similar device used outdoors in residential areas (see § 149-5 hereof, Table I) between the hours of 9:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m. so as to cause a noise disturbance across a residential property line (boundary).
(5) 
Loading and unloading. Loading, unloading, opening, closing or other handling of boxes, crates, containers, building materials, garbage cans or similar objects between the hours of 9:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m. the following day in such a manner as to cause a noise disturbance across a residential property line (boundary). This subsection shall not apply to municipal or utility services in or about the public right-of-way.
(6) 
Animals and birds. Owning, possessing, harboring or controlling any animal or bird which howls, barks, meows, squawks or makes other sound continuously and/or incessantly for a period of 10 minutes or makes such noise intermittently for 1/2 hour or more to the disturbance of any person at any time of the day or night regardless of whether the animal or bird is situated in or upon private property; provided, however, that at the time the animal or bird is making such noise, no person is trespassing or threatening to trespass upon private property in or upon which the animal or bird is situated or for any other legitimate cause which teased or provoked the animal or bird.
(7) 
Powered model vehicles. Operating or permitting the operation of powered model vehicles so as to create a noise disturbance across a residential property line (boundary) between the hours of 9:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m.
(8) 
Street sales. Offering for sale or selling by shouting or outcry or by any other amplified or unamplified sound within any residential or commercial area (see § 149-5, Table I) except between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m., and at no time in such a manner as to violate § 149-5A.
(9) 
Tampering.
(a) 
The removal or rendering inoperative by any person, other than for purposes of maintenance, repair or replacement, of any muffler or sound dissipative device or element of design or noise level of any product.
(b) 
The intentional moving or rendering inaccurate or inoperative of any sound-monitoring instrument or device positioned by or for the Bureau of Police, provided that such device or the immediate area is clearly labeled in accordance with noise control regulations, to warn of the potential illegality.
(c) 
The use of a product which has had a muffler or sound dissipative device or element or design or noise level label removed or rendered inoperative, with knowledge that such action has occurred.
(10) 
Vehicle, motorboat or aircraft repairs and testing. Repairing, rebuilding or testing any motor vehicle, motorcycle, motorboat or aircraft in such a manner as to cause a noise disturbance across a residential real property line (boundary).
(11) 
Explosives, firearms and similar devices. Firing any explosives, firearms or similar devices which create impulsive sound so as to create a noise disturbance across a residential property line or commercial property line (boundary) or on a public space or right-of-way.
(12) 
Air conditioners. Maintaining any refrigeration machinery or air conditioning, consisting of air compressors or rotating or reciprocating machinery, in such a manner as to create a noise disturbance across a residential property line (boundary).
C. 
Motor vehicle prohibitions.
(1) 
Motor vehicles and motorcycles on public rights-of-way. No person shall operate or cause to be operated a public or private motor vehicle or motorcycle, or any equipment attached to such a vehicle, on a public right-of-way at any time in such a manner that the sound level emitted by the motor vehicle or motorcycle, or any equipment attached to such a vehicle, exceeds the level set forth in Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Regulations Title 67, Chapter 157, Subchapter b, 67 Pa. Code § 157.11.
(2) 
Standing motor vehicles. No person shall operate or permit the operation of any motor vehicle or any auxiliary equipment attached to such a vehicle, for a period longer than 15 minutes in any hour while the vehicle is stationary, for reasons other than traffic congestion, anywhere within 150 feet of any residence in such a manner as to cause a noise disturbance across a residential property line (boundary).
(3) 
Unnecessary horn blowing. No person shall at any time sound the horn or other warning device of a vehicle except when absolutely necessary as a warning while actually driving such vehicle.
(4) 
Sound trucks. No person shall operate sound-amplifying equipment mounted on or attached to any motor vehicle at any time in such a manner as to exceed the maximum permissible motor vehicle noise emissions as set forth herein.
(5) 
Motor/engine retarder devices. No person shall use a motor/engine retarding device while operating a truck, tractor, motor carrier vehicle, motor vehicle, or any other vehicle within the Borough of Columbia. The prohibition against use of a motor/engine retarding device shall not apply to an emergency vehicle, as defined in Pennsylvania Title 75,[1] when said emergency vehicle is actually responding to an emergency call.
[Added 8-12-2002 by Ord. No. 712]
[1]
Editor's Note: See 75 Pa.C.S.A. § 101 et seq.
D. 
Prima facie violation. The noise from any of the aforesaid acts that disturbs two or more residents who are in general agreement as to the times and durations of the noise and who reside in separate residences, including apartments and condominiums, located across a property line (boundary) from the property on which the source of the noise is generated shall be prima facie evidence of a noise disturbance.
A. 
Maximum permissible sound levels by zoning districts. No person shall operate or cause to be operated any source of sound in such a manner as to create a sound level which exceeds the limits set forth in the zoning designations category in Table I hereof when measured at or across the property line (boundary) from the noise source. Any sound source that produces sound in excess of those levels shall constitute a noise disturbance.
[Amended 10-8-2001 by Ord. No. 706]
Table I
Sound Levels By Zoning Districts
Sound-Level Limit
[dB(A)]
Zoning District of Property
on Which Noise Source is Located
8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
9:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m.
Residential (P, C, RR, LDR, MDR, HDR, HDRM, INSR, MDRB)
57
52
Commercial (DC, LB, CR, NC, HC, RC)
67
62
Manufacturing (LI, GI)
77
77
B. 
When exceeded. The sound-level limits set forth in Subsection A, Table I, hereof shall be exceeded when any one or more of the following occurs:
(1) 
The sound at any one point in time exceeds any of the established zone limits in Subsection A, Table I, hereof by a measured sound level of 15 dB(A).
(2) 
The sound exceeds any of the established zone limits in Subsection A, Table I, hereof by a measured sound level of 10 dB(A) for a cumulative total of one minute or more out of any ten-minute period.
(3) 
The sound exceeds, except in the Manufacturing District, any of the established zone limits in Subsection A, Table I, hereof by a measured sound level of three dB(A) continually for a period of five minutes, or a total of five minutes out of any ten-minute period.
C. 
Ambient sound. In the event that the background ambient sound levels in an area of suspected noise disturbance exceed the levels set forth in Subsection A, Table I, hereof, the sound level of the intrusive sound source shall be measured with the ambient background sound level being substituted as the Table I sound-level limit.
D. 
Where measured. For the purposes of this section, sound shall be measured at or beyond the property line (boundary) of the property on which the noise source is located.
E. 
Pure tone and impulsive sound. For any source of sound which emits a pure tone or impulsive sound, the limits set forth in Subsection A, Table I, hereof shall be reduced by five dB(A).
F. 
Adjustment for nonconforming uses. Any noise which occurs on property which, according to Chapter 220, Zoning, is being used in a legally nonconforming manner, and which noise relates to such use, shall be judged as if the property bore a zoning designation under which the use would be conforming.
G. 
Measuring instruments. All sound measurements shall be made on a sound-level meter calibrated in the manner required by the manufacturer's specifications.
H. 
Exemptions from sound-level limits. The provisions of this section shall not apply to:
(1) 
Activities covered by § 149-4B(3) and (4) or any emergency signaling device used because of an emergency.
(2) 
Interstate railway locomotives and cars.
(3) 
Motor vehicles.
The following sounds are exempted from the provisions of this chapter:
A. 
Amplified announcements. Electronically amplified announcements at athletic events.
B. 
Blasting. Blasting and demolition as permitted by appropriate Borough authorities and bodies, which blasting and demolition may occur only between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, unless specifically authorized by such permit.
C. 
Concerts, etc. Band concerts, block parties, church carnivals or other performances or similar activities publicly or privately sponsored and presented in any public or private space outdoors, provided that:
(1) 
Such activities do not produce sound 15 dB(A) in excess of the sound levels set forth in § 149-5A, Table I; and
(2) 
Such activities do not occur between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m.
D. 
Emergency work. Sounds caused by the performance of emergency work or by the ordinary and accepted use of emergency apparatus and equipment.
E. 
Municipal and utility services. Sounds resulting from the repair or replacement of any municipal or utility installation in or about the public right-of-way.
F. 
School and public activities. Sounds not electronically amplified, created by organized school-related programs, activities, athletic and entertainment events or other public programs, activities or events, other than fireworks or fireworks displays and motor vehicle racing events.
(1) 
Any person responsible for any activity or event involving fireworks or fireworks displays shall apply with the Bureau of Police for an application for a special variance from noise control in accordance with § 149-7B, prior to applying for a fireworks permit.
(2) 
Any person involved in any motor vehicle racing event shall apply for a special variance from noise control with the Bureau of Police.
G. 
Warning devices. Sounds made by warning devices operating continuously for three minutes or less, except that in the event of an actual emergency the time limitation shall not apply.
A. 
Variances.
(1) 
Authority. The Noise Control Board shall have the authority to grant variances, consistent with the provisions of this section, after public hearing, upon application of any person who owns, controls or operates any sound source which does not comply with the provisions or standards of this chapter.
(2) 
Application. The application shall state the standard, provision or section from which the variance is being sought and the period of time and reasons for which the variance is sought. It shall contain information which demonstrates that bringing the sources of sound or activity for which the variance is sought into compliance with this chapter would constitute an unreasonable hardship on the applicant, and it shall contain any other supporting information which may reasonably be required.
(3) 
Public notification. Public notice of an application and the date, time and place of the public hearing to be held thereon for a variance shall be given by publishing notice thereof in a newspaper of general circulation in the Borough at least once, not less than three days prior to the scheduled public hearing and by, if practicable, conspicuously posting the premises that is the source of the sound for which the variance is sought.
(4) 
Hearing. The Board shall hold a public hearing to decide variance applications presented to it. Any person who claims to be affected by allowance of the variance may become a party to the hearing.
(5) 
Review standards. In determining whether to grant or deny the application, the Board shall balance the hardship to the applicant versus the adverse impact to the public health, safety and welfare and shall consider, at a minimum, the following conditions:
(a) 
The physical characteristics of the emitted sound.
(b) 
The times and duration of the emitted sound.
(c) 
The geography, zone and population density of the affected area.
(d) 
Whether the public health and safety is endangered.
(e) 
Whether the sound source predates the receiver(s).
(f) 
Whether compliance with the standard(s) from which the variance is sought would produce hardship without equal or greater benefit to the public.
(6) 
Decision. The Board shall render a written decision in granting or denying the application for variance and, if denied, shall state the reasons therefor. The Board's decision shall be made available to the applicant and any other person who requests it in writing. In granting a variance the Board may attach reasonable conditions, including but not limited to placing a time limit on the permitted activity and/or establishing a time schedule within which the source of sound or activity for which the variance was sought must be brought into compliance with this chapter. Where the grant of a variance is conditioned, the variance shall not become effective until all conditions are agreed to by the applicant. Noncompliance with any condition of the variance shall terminate it and subject the person holding it to those provisions of this chapter regulating the source of sound or activity for which the variance was granted. Variances may be granted for a period of up to one year. The person obtaining the variance may reapply for additional variance periods under terms set forth by the applicant and the Board.
(7) 
Appeals. Appeal from an adverse decision of the Board shall be made to the Court of Common Pleas of Lancaster County.
B. 
Special variances. The Chief of the Bureau of Police or his designee may, upon application, and guided by the standards for review set forth in § 149-7A(5) hereof, grant special variances for infrequent events or activities which do not exceed 24 hours in duration. Such special variances are not renewable except by action of the Board pursuant to § 149-7A hereof. The Board shall hear and decide all appeals from the denial of a special variance, the practice and procedure thereon to be in accordance with § 149-7A hereof.
C. 
Noise Control Board. The Noise Control Board, for the purposes of this chapter, shall be the Zoning Hearing Board, which Board shall have full authority to carry out the duties of the Noise Control Board, as set forth in this chapter. All applications to the Board shall be filed through the Zoning Officer and shall be accomplished by an application fee as set from time to time by resolution of the Borough Council. The hearing shall be held not more than 30 days following the filing of the application and the decision thereon rendered within 45 days of the last hearing in the case before the Board.
A. 
This chapter shall be enforced by the Bureau of Police.
B. 
Any Borough of Columbia law enforcement officer, in addition to any other authority vested in him, has the power, upon presentation of credentials, to enter and inspect any dwelling, multifamily dwelling, building, structure or premises within the Borough of Columbia as may be necessary to enforce the provisions of this chapter, provided that permission is obtained from the occupant or, in the case of unoccupied property, from the owner or his agent. If such permission is refused, a search warrant must be obtained, upon the showing of probable cause to believe that a violation of this chapter may exist, before such entry or inspection is made.
C. 
Any Borough of Columbia law enforcement officer, in addition to any other authority vested in him, may stop any motor vehicle, motorcycle or motorboat operated on a public right-of-way, public space or public waterway reasonably suspected of violating this chapter and issue a notice of violation or abatement order which may require the motor vehicle, motorcycle or motorboat to be inspected or tested.
A. 
Whoever violates any provisions of this chapter shall, upon conviction thereof in a summary proceeding, be fined not more than $1,000 for each offense, plus costs of prosecution, to be collected as other fines and costs are by law collectible, and, in default of payment of such fine and costs, be imprisoned for not more than 30 days. Each day during which a violation occurs shall constitute a separate offense.
B. 
This chapter and the foregoing penalties shall not be construed to limit or deny the right of the Borough of Columbia or any person to such equitable or other remedies as may otherwise be available with or without process of law.
The Borough of Columbia Secretary/Treasurer shall provide notice of this chapter by having copies of this chapter posted in, on or about such public or quasi-public places as may be determined by the Mayor, Borough Council and the Police Department in order that the public may be constantly informed of the Noise Ordinance.
This chapter shall be cumulative and in addition to any other laws in force.