Town of Westerly, RI
Washington County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
[HISTORY: Adopted by the Town Council of the Town of Westerly 8-13-1991 by Ch. No. 983 as §§ 8-51 through 8-62 of the 1991 Code (as amended through Ch. No. 1275); amended in its entirety 7-19-2010 by Ch. No. 1720. Amendments noted where applicable.]
GENERAL REFERENCES
Noise disturbances by animals — See Ch. 76, § 76-6B.
Excessive noise from boats — See Ch. 86.
Noise from outdoor public entertainment venues — See Ch. 115, Art. II, § 115-6B.
Hawking and shouting of peddlers — See Ch. 186, Art. II.
Loud and unreasonable noise — See Ch. 182, § 182-10B.
The Town Council finds and declares that:
A. 
Excessive noise is a serious hazard to the public health and welfare and quality of life in the Town.
B. 
Each person has a right to an environment reasonably free from noise which jeopardizes health or welfare or unnecessarily degrades the quality of life.
A. 
The purpose of this chapter is to establish standards for the control of noise pollution in the Town by setting maximum permissible sound levels for various activities, to protect the public health, safety and general welfare.
B. 
This chapter may be cited as the “Noise Control Ordinance of the Town of Westerly.”
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 used by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) or its successor body.
A-SCALE (dBA)
The sound level in decibels measured using the A-weighted network as specified in ANSI S1.4-1971 for sound level meters. The level is designated “dB(A)” or “dBA.”
CONSTRUCTION
Any and all activity necessary or incidental to the erection, assembly, alteration, installation, repair or equipping of buildings, roadways, infastructure, or utilities, including drilling, blasting, mining, land clearing, grading, excavating and filling.
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, impervious surfaces, or similar property.
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.
EXTERIOR GENERATOR
Gas-, propane- or diesel-powered engine designed to generate electricity outside the confines of a building.
LOT
Any area, a 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.
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 term shall include motorized bicycles and motor scooters.
MOTOR VEHICLE
Any motor-operated vehicle licensed for use on the public highways.
NOISE DISTURBANCE
Any sound which:
A. 
Exceeds the dBA level for such sound set out in this chapter.
B. 
Injures or endangers the safety or health of humans.
C. 
Annoys, disturbs or endangers the comfort, repose, peace or safety of a reasonable person of normal sensitivities.
D. 
Endangers or injures personal or real property.
NOISE-SENSITIVE AREA
Any area used for the operation of schools, churches, hospitals and nursing homes or any area designated by the Town Council as a noise-sensitive area and posted with noise-sensitive signs.
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.
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 musical rhythms.
PORTABLE COOLING/HEATING COMPRESSOR
The gas, propane or diesel compressor attached to a truck, trailer or temporary storage unit whose purpose is to heat or cool the space to which it is attached.
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
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 S1.4-1971, 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 average, output or display meter, and weighting networks used to measure sound pressure levels, which complies with American National Standards Institute Standard 1.4-1971.
ZONING DISTRICTS
Those districts established by and defined in Chapter 260, Zoning, of the Code of the Town of Westerly.
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 sound level limit for such noise established in this chapter.
A. 
Discharge of weapons and fireworks displays. The discharge of weapons or fireworks displays licensed by the Town are permitted between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 11:00 p.m.
B. 
Loading and unloading. Any person shall be permitted to load, unload, open, close or handle crates, containers, garbage cans and dumpsters, building materials or similar objects outdoors between the hours of 6:30 a.m. and 9:00 p.m.
C. 
Construction and manufacturing.
(1) 
Drilling, blasting, mining, manufacturing or demolition work. The operation of any tools or equipment in drilling, blasting, mining, manufacturing or demolition work or in preventive maintenance work for public service utilities is permitted between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., except on Sundays or legal holidays. The terms of this section shall not apply to emergency work or repair work performed by or for governmental entities or public service utilities for public safety and welfare.
(2) 
Building construction activities. The operation of building construction, alteration or repair activities, authorized by a valid Town building permit, is permitted between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m., provided that on Sundays and legal holidays operation is permitted between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.
D. 
Domestic power tools. The use of small, domestic power tools or equipment, such as a saw, drill, sander, grinder or similar device, used outdoors in residential areas is allowed but subject to the noise levels set out in § 171-7.
E. 
Lawn care and grounds maintenance equipment. The use of lawn care and grounds maintenance equipment, such as a lawnmower, leaf blower, lawn or garden tool, or similar device, is allowed in normal daytime usage if used and maintained in accordance with the manufacturer's specifications.
F. 
Operation of snow-removal equipment. The operation of snow-removal equipment is allowed at any time, provided that such equipment shall be maintained in good repair so as to minimize noise. Noise discharged from exhausts shall be adequately muffled so as to prevent loud and/or explosive sounds being emitted therefrom.
G. 
Town-permitted activities:
(1) 
Parades or processions for which a parade permit has been issued, provided the conditions of the permit are complied with.
(2) 
Any athletic event or recreational activity which is conducted and sponsored or funded in part by any elementary or secondary school or the Town of Westerly, on property owned and controlled by the Town of Westerly.
(3) 
Band concerts or music provided, sponsored or funded, in whole or in part, by the Town of Westerly or by any entity qualifying for tax exempt status under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, or on property owned and controlled by the Town of Westerly or in Wilcox Park for which a valid permit has been obtained.
H. 
Church or clock carillons, bells or chimes. The emission of sound from church or clock carillons, bells or chimes is permitted at any time.
I. 
Emergency signaling devices. The 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. The emission of sound for the purpose of alerting persons to the existence of an emergency is permitted at any time.
J. 
Exterior generators and portable cooling/heating compressors. The operation of an exterior generator or portable cooling/heating compressor is permitted between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m., provided that on Sundays and legal holidays operations shall be permitted only between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.
(1) 
The operation of an external generator or portable cooling/heating compressor is permitted at any time during a power outage or a power reduction or for other commercial backup purposes or for testing or routine maintenance of the generator or compressor or during an emergency.
(2) 
The operation of an external generator or portable cooling/heating compressor is permitted at any time for use on or in conjunction with an active construction site, provided all other provisions of the Noise Ordinance are met with respect to hours of construction, and provided further that continuous operation of a generator or compressor at a construction site is permitted where said operation is integral to the nature of the construction project itself and industrial activities otherwise permitted in an industrial zone.
K. 
Aircraft. The movements of aircraft which are in all respects conducted in accordance with, or pursuant to, applicable federal laws or regulations are permitted.
The following acts and the causing thereof are declared to be in violation of this chapter:
A. 
Radios, television sets, musical instruments and similar devices. No person shall operate, play or permit the operation or playing of any radio, television, phonograph, drum, musical instrument, sound amplifier or similar device, or any combination of the same, which produces, reproduces or simulates amplified sound:
(1) 
In such a manner as to create a noise disturbance across a real property boundary or within a noise-sensitive area.
(2) 
In such a manner as to create a noise disturbance at 50 feet from such device, when operated in or on a motor vehicle on a public right-of-way or space, or in a boat on public waters.
(3) 
In such a manner as to create a noise disturbance to any person other than the operator of the device when operated by any person on either a common carrier, public beach, park, playground or other public recreational area.
B. 
Animals and birds. No person shall own, possess or harbor any animal or animals, bird or birds which frequently or for continued duration howls, barks, meows, squeaks, or makes other sounds which create a noise disturbance across a real property boundary or within a noise-sensitive area.
C. 
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 real property boundary or outdoors within a noise-sensitive area.
D. 
Motorboats, jet skis and similar devices. No person shall operate or permit the operation of any motorboat, jet ski or other similar device in any lake, river, stream or other waterway in such a manner so as to cause a noise disturbance and/or as to exceed a sound level of 50 dBA at 200 feet or the nearest shoreline, whichever is less.
E. 
Noise-sensitive zones. No person, alone or in concert with others, shall create or cause the creation of any sound within any noise-sensitive area so as to disrupt or interfere with the functions and/or activities normally conducted within the area or to disturb or annoy any person or persons within such area.
F. 
Motor vehicles.
(1) 
Motor vehicle maximum sound levels. No person shall operate or cause to be operated a public or private motor vehicle or motorcycle on a public right-of-way at any time in such a manner as to create a noise disturbance.
(2) 
Adequate mufflers or sound-dissipative devices.
(a) 
No person shall operate or cause to be operated any motor vehicle or motorcycle not equipped with a muffler or sound-dissipative device in good working order and in constant operation.
(b) 
No person shall remove or render inoperative or cause to be removed or rendered inoperative, other than for purposes of maintenance, repair or replacement, any muffler or sound-dissipative device on a motor vehicle or motorcycle.
(3) 
Motor vehicle horns and signaling devices. The following acts and the causing thereof are declared to be in violation of this chapter:
(a) 
The sounding of any horn or other auditory signaling device on or in any motor vehicle on any public right-of-way or public space, except as a warning of danger or as provided in the Vehicle Code.
(b) 
The sounding of any horn or other auditory signaling device so as to create or cause a noise disturbance.
A. 
Maximum permissible sound levels by receiving land use. With the exception of sound levels elsewhere specifically authorized or allowed in this chapter, no person shall operate or cause to be operated, make, continue or cause to be made or continued any noise or source of sound as to create a sound level which exceeds the limits set forth for the receiving land use category in Table 1 when measured at or within the property boundary of the receiving land use.
Table 1
Sound Levels By Receiving Land Use
Zoning Category of Receiving Land Use
Sound Level Limit (dBA) from 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
Sound Level Limit (dBA) from 10:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m.
Residential (LDR-43, LDR-40, MDR-30, MDR-20, HDR-15, HDR-10, HDR-6)
65
60
Business (DC-1, DC-2, GC, HC, NB, MC, SC-WH, SC-G, CR)
75
75
Professional (P-15)
75
75
Manufacturing (LI, GI, ORAT)
70
60
Agriculture (RR-60, OSR)
70
60
Noise-sensitive area
65
55
Motor vehicle w/wt. 10,000 or more
86 dBA 35 mph or less/90 dBA over 35 mph
Motorcycle
82 dBA 35 mph or less/86 dBA over 35 mph
Any motor vehicle towed
76 dBA 35 mph or less/82 dBA over 35 mph
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. 
Measurement of sound.
(1) 
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 an A-weighted scale and both fast and slow meter response capability.
(2) 
If the measurements are made with other instruments, the procedure shall be carried out in such a manner that the overall accuracy is at least that called for in ANSI Standard 1.4-1971 for Type II instruments.
(3) 
When the location or distance prescribed in this chapter for measurement of sound is impractical or would provide misleading or inaccurate results, measurements may be taken at other locations or distances using appropriate correction factors specified in this chapter.
(4) 
Procedures and tests required by this chapter and not specified herein shall be placed on file with the Town Clerk.
A. 
Council shall have the authority, consistent with this section, to grant sound variances from this chapter after public hearing.
B. 
Any person seeking a sound variance under this section shall file an application with Council. The application shall contain information which demonstrates that bringing the source of sound or activity for which the sound variance is sought into compliance with this chapter would constitute an unreasonable hardship on the applicant, on the community or on other persons.
C. 
All applications shall be subject to a fee of $50 per day if granted and, whether granted or denied, an amount sufficient to cover the cost of advertising and notification to all residents and property owners within 100 feet of the noise source. Advertisement shall be made at least once, seven days prior to the public hearing, in a newspaper of general circulation in the Town. Notification shall be by regular mail at least seven days prior to the public hearing.
D. 
In determining whether to grant or deny an application or revoke a variance previously granted, Council shall balance hardship to the applicant, the community and other persons if the sound variance is not allowed against the adverse impact on the health, safety and welfare of persons affected, the adverse impact on property affected, and any other adverse impact, if the sound variance is allowed. Applicants for sound variances and persons contesting sound variances may be required to submit any information that Council may reasonably require. In granting or denying an application or in revoking a sound variance previously granted, Council shall place on public file a copy of the decision and the reasons for granting, denying or revoking the sound variance.
E. 
Sound variances shall be granted by notice to the applicant containing all necessary conditions, including a time limit on the permitted activity. The sound variance shall not become effective until all conditions are agreed to by the applicant. Noncompliance with any condition of the sound 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 sound variance was granted.
F. 
Determination of modification of a granted variance shall be made in accordance with the rules and procedures set forth in the section for original applications.
Any person who shall violate any provision of this chapter shall, upon conviction thereof, be punished for each violation as provided in Chapter 1, Article II, General Penalty. The continuation of a violation of any provision of this chapter shall constitute, for each day the violation is continued, a separate and distinct violation hereunder.