Town of Elsmere, DE
New Castle County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
[HISTORY: Adopted by the Mayor and Council of the Town of Elsmere 12-9-1993 by Ord. No. 304. Amendments noted where applicable.]
GENERAL REFERENCES
Animals — See Ch. 71.
All terminology used in this chapter, not defined herein, shall be in conformance with applicable publications of the American National Standard Institute (ANSI) or its successor body. As used in this chapter, the following terms shall have the meanings indicated:
A-WEIGHTED SOUND-PRESSURE LEVEL
The sound-pressure level as measured on a sound-level meter using the A-weighting network. The level so read shall be designated dB(A) or dBA.
AMBIENT NOISE LEVEL
The all-encompassing background noise associated with a given environment without the sound contribution of the specific source in question.
DECIBEL
A standard unit for measuring the sound-pressure level. It is equal to 20 times the logarithm to the base 10 of the ratio of the pressure of the sound measured to a reference which is 20 micropascals denoted as dB.
DISTRICT, RESIDENTIAL
As defined in Chapter 225, Zoning.
DISTRICT, COMMUNITY COMMERCIAL
As defined in Chapter 225, Zoning.
DISTRICT, GENERAL INDUSTRIAL
As defined in Chapter 225, Zoning.
DISTRICT, HIGHWAY DEVELOPMENT
As defined in Chapter 225, Zoning.
EMERGENCY
Any occurrence or set of circumstances involving actual or imminent physical trauma or property damage which demands immediate actions.
EMERGENCY VEHICLE
A motor vehicle used in response to public calamity or to protect persons or property from imminent danger.
EQUIVALENT SOUND LEVEL (A-WEIGHTED)
The constant sound level that, in a given situation and time period (x) conveys the sound energy as the actual time-varying A-weighted sound. Designated Leq(x) dB(A).
MOTOR VEHICLE
As defined in the Motor Vehicle Code of the State of Delaware, or any vehicles which are propelled or drawn by mechanical equipment, such as but not limited to passenger cars, trucks, truck-trailers, semitrailers, campers, motorcycles, minibikes, go-carts, snowmobiles, mopeds, amphibious craft on land, dune buggies or racing vehicles.
MUFFLER
Any apparatus whose primary purpose is to transmit liquids or gases while causing a reduction in sound emission at one end.
NOISE
Any sound which is unwanted or which causes or tends to cause an adverse physiological effect on human beings.
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 sensibilities;
C. 
Jeopardizes the value of property and erodes the integrity of the environment; or
D. 
Is in excess of the allowable noise levels established in § 143-5 herein.
NOISE, PLAINLY AUDIBLE
Any noise for which the information content of that noise is communicated to the listener, such as but not limited to understandable spoken speech or comprehensible musical rhythms, including bass tones with a repetitive and impulsive sound.
POWERED MODEL VEHICLES
Any powered vehicles, either airborne, waterborne or landborne, which are designed not to carry persons or property, such as but not limited to model airplanes, boats and rockets, which can be propelled by mechanical means.
PROPERTY BOUNDARY
An imaginary line at the ground surface, and its vertical extension, which separates the real property owned by one person from that owned by another person, or institution, corporation, business or governmental entity.
PURE TONE
Any sound which can be distinctly heard as a single pitch or set of single pitches. For the purpose of this section, a pure tone shall exist if the 1/3 octave band sound-pressure level and the band with the tone exceeds the arithmetic average of the sound-pressure level of the two contiguous 1/3 octave bands by 15 dB for bands with center frequencies less than 160 Hz, eight dB for bands with center frequencies greater than 400 Hz.
SOUND
A temporal and spatial oscillation in pressure, or other physical quantity, in a medium with internal forces that causes compression and rarefaction of that medium, and which propagates at finite speed to distant points.
SOUND LEVEL
The sound-pressure level (SPL) 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). The unit of measurement is the decibel. If the frequency weighting employed is not indicated, the A-weighting shall apply.
SOUND PRESSURE
The instantaneous difference between the actual pressure and the average or barometric pressure at a given point in space.
WEEKDAY
Any Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or Friday which is not a legally designated holiday.
A. 
Enforcement. This chapter shall be enforced by the Chief of Police or his designees, and/or the Code Enforcement Officer, except as otherwise noted herein.
B. 
Penalties.
(1) 
Any person who violates any portion of this chapter shall receive a verbal order to cease or abate the noise immediately or within a reasonable time period, "...except that after 9:00 p.m. and until 7:00 a.m., any person designated to enforce this chapter need not issue a verbal order to cease or abate the noise before charging any person with a violation of this chapter."
(2) 
If the order to cease or abate the noise is complied with, or is complied with and then violated again within 60 days, the person or persons responsible for the noise under § 143-3 shall be charged with a violation of this chapter and be subject to a fine of at least $100 and not to exceed $500, or by imprisonment for not more than six months, or by both fine and imprisonment.
(3) 
The order shall be deemed to be properly served upon the person or persons responsible for the noise under § 143-3 if a copy thereof is delivered to the owner or agent personally; or by leaving the notice at the usual place of abode, in the presence of someone in the family or suitable agent and discretion who shall be informed of the contents thereof, or by certified mail addressed to the owner or agent at the last known address with a return receipt requested; or by posting a copy thereof in a conspicuous place in or about the structure affected by such notice. Where the person or persons responsible for the noise under § 143-3 is any owner of premises within the limits of the Town of Elsmere that such owner does not occupy, the order shall be deemed to be properly served if served upon either such owner or owners or upon owner's or owners' agent(s).
(4) 
A written record of all measured violations shall be kept by the Chief of Police or the Code Enforcement Officer.
A. 
General prohibitions. It shall be unlawful for any person or persons to make, permit, continue, or cause to be made, or to create a noise disturbance within the limits of the Town of Elsmere, except as provided in this chapter. Any owner of premises within the limits of the Town of Elsmere that such owner does not occupy will be presumed to permit a noise disturbance to occur after receiving an order in accordance with § 143-2B(3) herein. Enforcement of noise violations under this section need not require the use of a sound-level meter, unless otherwise specifically stated.
B. 
Specific prohibitions.
(1) 
Horns and signaling devices: No person shall sound a vehicular horn or other audible device except in an emergency warning.
(2) 
Radios, television sets, phonographs and similar devices:
(a) 
Operating or permitting the use or operation of any radio receiving set, musical instrument(s), television, phonographs, drum or other device for the production or reproduction of sound in such a manner as to cause a noise disturbance.
(b) 
Operating or permitting the operation of any such device between the hours of 9:00 p.m. and the following 7:00 a.m. in such a manner as to be plainly audible across real property boundaries or through partitions common to two parties within a building, or plainly audible at 50 feet from such device when operated within a motor vehicle on a public right-of-way or on a public space.
(3) 
Exterior loudspeakers: Using or operating, or permitting the use or operation of any mechanical device or loudspeaker in a fixed or movable position exterior to any building, or mounted upon any aircraft or motor vehicle such that the sound therefrom is plainly audible at or beyond the property boundary of the source, or on a public way except as provided for below.
(4) 
Street sales: Selling anything by shouting or by outcry within any residence zoned district.
(5) 
Animals: No person shall keep an animal which, by causing frequent or long continued noise, shall disturb the quiet, comfort or repose of the neighborhood to such an extent as to constitute a nuisance.
(6) 
Loading operations: Loading, unloading, opening or otherwise handling boxes, crates, containers, garbage cans, or otherwise similar objects between the hours of 9:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. the following day, in such a manner as to create noise disturbance within a residence district, except during an emergency.
(7) 
Construction noise: Operating or causing to be operated any equipment used in commercial construction, repair, alteration, or demolition work on buildings, structures, streets, alleys or appurtenances thereto, in the following manner:
(a) 
With sound control devices which have been tampered with.
(b) 
In violation of any regulation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency.
(c) 
Between the hours of 9:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. the following day on weekdays and between 9:00 p.m. on Saturday evenings and 9:00 a.m. on Sunday mornings; or between 9:00 p.m. the day before and 9:00 a.m. the day of a legal holiday which creates a noise disturbance; except as provided below.
(8) 
Explosives, firearms and similar devices: The use or firing of explosives, firearms or similar devices which create impulsive sound as to cause a noise disturbance within a residence district or on a public right-of-way.
(9) 
Powered model vehicles: Operating or permitting the operation of powered model vehicles between the hours of 9:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. the following morning. Maximum sound-pressure levels during the permitted periods of operation shall conform to those set forth in § 143-5 below and shall be measured at the property line of the source or at a distance of 50 feet if it is operated in a public place.
(10) 
Refuse compacting vehicles: The operating, or permitting to be operated, of any motor vehicle which can compact refuse and which creates during the compacting cycle a sound-pressure level in excess of 94 dB(A) when measured at 50 feet from any point of the vehicle, or between the hours of 9:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. the following day in residence zoned districts.
(11) 
Yelling, shouting, hooting, whistling or generally creating racket on public streets: between the hours of 9:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. so as to annoy and disturb the quiet comfort or repose of persons in any business or residence, or of any persons in the vicinity.
(12) 
Power equipment: Operating, or permitting to be operated, any power saw, sander, drill, grinder, garden equipment or tools of a similar nature, outdoors in residence zoned districts between the hours of 9:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. the following day, in such a manner as to create a noise disturbance.
(13) 
Stationary emergency signaling devices:
(a) 
Testing of only the electrical, mechanical functioning of a stationary emergency signaling device shall occur at the same time each day that a test is performed, but not before 7:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m. Any such testing shall only use the minimum cycle test time. In no case shall such test time exceed 10 seconds.
(b) 
Testing of the complete emergency signaling system, including the electromechanical functioning of the signaling device and the personnel response to the signal shall not occur more than once each calendar month. Such testing shall not occur before 8:00 a.m. or after 8:00 p.m. The ten-second time limit on the electromechanical functioning of the signaling device shall not apply to such system testing.
(c) 
Stationary emergency signaling devices shall be used only for testing in compliance with applicable provisions of this chapter and for emergency purposes where personnel and equipment are mobilized.
A. 
Exceptions. The following uses of an activity shall be exempt from noise level regulations:
(1) 
Noise of safety signals and warning devices.
(2) 
Noises resulting from any authorized vehicle, when responding to an emergency.
(3) 
Noises resulting from the provision municipal services.
(4) 
Any noise resulting from activities of a temporary duration permitted by law and/or for which a waiver has been granted by the Town.
(5) 
The unamplified human voice (except as specified above in § 143-3).
(6) 
Parades and public gatherings for which a special waiver has been issued.
(7) 
Bells, chimes, carillons while being used for religious purposes or in conjunction with religious services, or for national celebrations or public holidays, and those bells, chimes, carillons that are presently installed, and in use, for any purpose.
B. 
Exceptions for time to comply. Upon good cause shown by the owner or responsible party for any noise source, the Town Manager shall have the power to grant an exemption from the requirement of this chapter in order to allow sufficient time for installation of needed control equipment, facilities, or modifications to achieve compliance, not to exceed 10 days, provided that such exemption may be renewed as necessary, but only if satisfactory progress toward compliance is shown. A request for exemption shall be filed in writing with the Town Manager.
C. 
Use exemptions. The following uses and activities shall be exempt from noise level regulations:
(1) 
Lawn maintenance equipment when it is functioning within manufacturers specifications and with all mufflers and noise-reducing equipment in use and in properly operating condition between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m.
(2) 
Nonamplified crowd noises resulting from the activities such as those planned by day-care centers, schools, governmental or community groups.
(3) 
Amplified announcements, electronically amplified announcements at athletic events.
D. 
Special waivers.
(1) 
The Town Manager shall have the authority, consistent with this chapter, to grant special waivers.
(2) 
Any person seeking a special waiver pursuant to this chapter shall file a written application with the Town Manager. The written application shall contain information which demonstrates that bringing the source of sound or activity for which the especial waiver is brought into compliance with the ordinance would constitute an unreasonable hardship on the applicant, on the community or for another purpose.
(3) 
Determining whether to grant or deny the application, the Town Manager shall balance the hardship to the applicant, the community and other persons of not grating the special waiver against the adverse impact on the health, safety and welfare of person affected, the adverse impact of property affected and any other adverse impacts of granting the special waiver.
(4) 
Special waivers shall be granted by notice to the applicant and may include all necessary conditions, including time limits on the permitted activity. The special waiver shall not become effective until all conditions are agreed to by the applicants. Noncompliance with any condition of the special waiver shall terminate it and subject the person holding it to those provisions of this chapter regulating the source of sounds or activity for which the special waiver was granted.
(5) 
The Town Manager may issue guidelines defining the procedures to be followed in applying for special waivers and the criteria to be considered in deciding whether to grant a special waiver.
A. 
Unless a person(s) has been granted a special waiver, in accordance with the provisions of this chapter, it shall be unlawful for any person(s) to create a noise disturbance. Any one or combination of the following shall constitute noise disturbances:
(1) 
A noise which exceeds the ambient noise level by 10 dBA at a point beyond the boundary of the property on which the source of noise is located, except as otherwise regulated herein.
(2) 
Any stationary source of sound which admits a pure tone, cyclically varying sound or repetitive impulsive sound, shall be considered a noise disturbance if the sound exceeds the ambient noise level by five dBA.
(3) 
A source of sound which emits an impulse (the duration of less than one second with an abrupt onset and rapid decay) including metal-to-metal impact or exploding impacts, shall not exceed the peak level set forth below at a point beyond the boundary of the property on which the source of noise is located.
(a) 
Residence district between 9:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m.: 80 dBA.
(b) 
All other districts and all other times: 100 dBA.
(4) 
Any source of sound which emits infrasound (below 16 Hertz) or ultrasound (above 20 KHz) frequencies, shall not exceed 100 dBA when measured at a point beyond the boundary of the property on which the source of noise is located.
(5) 
No persons shall operate or cause to be operated any stationary source of sound in such a manner as to create a twenty-four-hour equivalent A-weighted sound level which exceeds the Leq limits set forth for the receiving land use category below and when measured at a point beyond the boundary of the property on which the source of noise is located.
(a) 
Residence districts: 57 dBA between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m.; 52 dBA between the hours of 9:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m.
(b) 
Business districts: 63 dBA between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m.; 59 dBA between the hours of 9:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m.
[Amended 5-30-1996 by Ord. No. 326]
(c) 
Industrial/manufacturing/highway development districts: 85 dBA.
(d) 
At no time between the hours of 5:00 p.m. on any weekday and 8:00 a.m. on the following day or at any time between the hours of 8:00 a.m. on Saturday and 8:00 a.m. on Monday morning shall the sound made in any zone exceed 52 dBA when measured from any point upon the property of a residentially zoned property.
[Added 7-9-2003 by Ord. No. 419]
B. 
When a person designated to enforce this chapter decides to use a noise-level meter, the ambient noise level shall be obtained by one of two methods:
(1) 
By walking beyond the real property boundaries from the source of the specific noise and obtaining the ambient noise level when the specific noise is no longer heard by the operator of the noise meter.
(2) 
If a complaint is made within an apartment building, duplex or through partitions, and a similar building exists as part of a total complex, the noise meter operator may enter a second building of similar design and obtain an ambient noise level.
A. 
Vehicle repairs. It shall be unlawful for any person within any residence district to repair, rebuild or test any motor vehicle between the hours of 9:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m. of the following day in such a manner that would create a noise disturbance.
B. 
No vehicle operator or person in charge of a motor vehicle shall permit the operation of any radio, disc player, tape player, music speaker, loudspeaker, portable stereo or other similar device in or on a vehicle in such a manner as to be plainly audible on a public right-of-way or on a public space at 50 feet or more from the vehicle, or at 50 feet or more from a vehicle on a public right-of-way or on a public space.
[Amended 12-10-1998 by Ord. No. 368]
C. 
Aircraft and railroad noise limits. All aircraft and railroads operating within the confines of the Town of Elsmere shall comply with all applicable federal and state noise regulations.
For the purpose of the enforcement of the provisions of this chapter, when used, a sound-level meter shall meet or exceed the requirements of the American National Standard Institute specifications for sound-level meters (ANSI SI.4-1971), approved April 27, 1971, and issued by the American National Standard Institute for Types I, II, or S sound-level meters. A sound-level calibration instrument of the coupler type shall be used to calibrate the sound-level meter in decibel units, and such instrument shall produce a calibration sound-pressure level having a tolerance no greater than plus 0.5 dB with a reference sound-pressure level of 20 micronewtons per square meter.