[HISTORY: Adopted by the Mayor and Council of New Castle 10-12-1999 by Ord. No. 390. Amendments noted where applicable.]
Editor's Note: This ordinance also repealed former Ch. 166, Noise, which consisted of Art. I, Noise from Vehicles, adopted 10-12-1993 by Ord. No. 355.
The City of New Castle, finding that excessive levels of sound are detrimental to the physical, mental and social well-being of citizens of the City of New Castle as well as to their comfort, living conditions, general welfare and safety, hereby declares it to be necessary to provide for the greater good and more effective regulation of excessive sounds through the adoption of a new and more comprehensive Chapter 166, Noise.
The following words, terms and phrases, when used in this chapter, shall have the meanings ascribed to them in this section, except where the context clearly indicates a different meaning. 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.
- A-WEIGHTED SOUND PRESSURE LEVEL
- The sound pressure level as measured on a sound level meter using the A-weighing 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.
- COMMERCIAL DISTRICT
- Retail Commercial and Service Commercial zoning districts.
- A standard unit for measuring the sound pressure level. It is equal to 20 times the logarithm to the base ten of the ratio of the pressure of the sound measured to a reference pressure which is 20 micropascals, denoted as dB.
- Any occurrence or set of circumstances involving actual or imminent physical trauma or property damages 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).
- INDUSTRIAL DISTRICT
- Light-industrial office district LIO, Industrial Office Park, Industrial District and Agricultural-Horticultural, and OS&R Zoning Districts.
- 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, semi-trailers, campers, motorcycles, minibikes, go-carts, snowmobiles, mopeds, amphibious craft on land, dune buggies or racing vehicles.
- Any apparatus whose primary purpose is to transmit liquids or gases while causing a reduction in sound emission at one end.
- Any sound which is unwanted or which causes or tends to cause an adverse physiological or psychological effect on human beings.
- NOISE DISTURBANCE
- Any sound which:
- A. Endangers or injures the safety or health of human or animals; or
- B. Annoys or disturbs a reasonable person of normal sensibilities; or
- 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 § 166-6 herein.
- NOISE, PLAINLY AUDIBLE
- Any noise for which the information content of that noise is unambiguously 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 VEHICLE
- 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, cars, 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 one-third octave band sound pressure level and the band with the tone exceeds the arithmetic average of the sound pressure level of the two contiguous one-third octave bands by 15 dB for bands with center frequencies less than 160 Hz, with dB for bands with center frequencies of 160 Hz to 400 Hz and by five dB for bands with center frequencies greater than 400 Hz.
- RESIDENTIAL DISTRICT
- R-1, R-2, R-3, Historic Residence and Historic commerce zoning districts.
- 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 sound level meter and frequency weighing network, such as A, B or C as specified in American National Standards Institute specifications for sound level meters (ANSI SI.4-197 1, or the latest approved revision thereof). The unit of measurement is the decibel. If the frequency weighing employed is not indicated, the A-weighing shall apply.
- SOUND PRESSURE
- The instantaneous difference between the actual pressure and the average or barometric pressure at a given point in space.
- Any Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or Friday which is not a legally designated holiday.
This chapter shall be enforced by the Chief of Police or his designees, except as otherwise noted herein.
Between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m., any person violating any portion of this chapter shall receive a verbal order to cease or abate the noise immediately.
Between the hours of 9:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m., any person designated to enforce this chapter need not issue a verbal order before charging any person with a violation of this chapter.
Between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m., if the order to cease or abate the noise is not complied with, or is complied with and then violated again within 60 days, the person or persons responsible for the noise under § 166-4 shall be charged with a violation of this chapter.
Any person or persons charged with a violation of this chapter for the first offense shall 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. For each subsequent offense such person shall be subject to a fine of at least $250 and not to exceed $1,000 or by imprisonment for not more than one year, or by both fine and imprisonment.
The order shall be deemed to be properly served upon the person or persons responsible for the noise under § 166-4 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 of suitable age 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 the 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 § 166-4 is any owner of premises within the limits of the City of New Castle 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 the owner's or owners' agent(s).
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 City of New Castle, except as provided in this chapter. Any owner of premises within the limits of the City of New Castle that such owner does not occupy will be presumed to permit a noise disturbance to occur after receiving an order in accordance with § 166-3, Subsection B(5) herein. Enforcement of noise violations under this section need not require the use of a sound level meter, unless otherwise specifically stated.
Specific prohibitions. The following are specific prohibitions:
Horns and signaling devices. The use of motor vehicle horns and warning or signally devices shall be limited to the emergency situations for which they were designed.
Radios, television sets, phonographs and similar devices:
Operating or permitting the use or operation of any radio receiving set, musical instrument(s), television, phonographs, drum, sound amplifier, automobile radio or stereo or other device for the production, reproduction or amplification of sound in such a manner as to cause a noise disturbance.
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 through such partitions between a person within a building and the public way, including, but not limited to, common areas and parking lots, 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.
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 an 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.
Street sales. Selling anything by shouting or by outcry within any residence district.
Animals and birds. Owning, possessing, harboring or controlling any animal or bird which barks, bays, cries or squawks or makes any other noise continuously or incessantly for a period of ten minutes or makes such noise intermittently for one half hour or more thereby causing a noise disturbance within a receiving 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 that there is no other act by persons which teased or provoked the animal or bird.
Loading operations. Loading, unloading, opening or otherwise handling boxes, crates, containers, garbage cans or otherwise similar objects between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. the following day, in such a manner as to create a noise disturbance within a residence district, except during an emergency.
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:
With sound control devices which have been tampered with.
In violation of any regulation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency.
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.
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.
Powered model vehicle. 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 period of operation shall conform to those set forth in § 166-6 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.
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 districts.
Yelling, shouting, hooting, whistling or generally creating a 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.
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 districts between the hours of 8:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. the following day, in such a manner as to create a noise disturbance.
Stationary emergency signaling devices.
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 8:00 a.m. or after 8:00 p.m. Any such testing shall only use the minimum cycle test time. In no case shall such test time exceed 10 seconds.
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 signalling device shall not apply to such system testing.
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.
Exceptions. The following uses and activities shall be exempt from noise level requirements of this chapter:
Noise of safety signals and warning devices.
Noises resulting from any authorized vehicle, when responding to an emergency.
Noises resulting from the provision of municipal services.
Any noise resulting from activities of a temporary duration permitted by law and/or for which a waiver has been granted by the city.
Parades and public gatherings for which a special waiver has been issued.
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.
Noise resulting from city-sponsored events in public parks or public spaces and activities of federal, state and local governmental agencies.
Noise resulting from the operation of lawn maintenance equipment, except between the hours of 9:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m., so long as such equipment is functioning within manufacturers' specifications and with all mufflers and noise-reducing equipment in use and is in proper operating condition.
Nonamplified crowd noises resulting from the activities such as those planned by day-care centers, schools, governmental or community groups.
Electronically amplified announcements at athletic events.
Exemptions for time to comply. Upon good cause shown by the owner or responsible party for any noise source, the City Administrator shall have the power to grant an exemption from the requirements of this chapter in order to allow sufficient time for installation of needed control equipment, facilities or modifications to achieve compliance, not to exceed five 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 City Administrator.
The City Administrator shall have the authority, consistent with this chapter, to grant special waivers for good cause shown by an applicant.
Any person seeking a special waiver pursuant to this chapter shall file a written application with the City Administrator. The written application shall contain information which demonstrates that bringing the source of sound or activity for which the special waiver is sought into compliance with this chapter would constitute an unreasonable hardship on the applicant, on the community or for another purpose. The written application shall set forth the date and hours between which such use or activity is to be extent, the nature of the use or activity and any noise-creating equipment to be employed, as well as the name, address and telephone number of the person to be responsible for the operation thereof.
In determining whether to grant or deny the application, the City Administrator shall balance the hardship to the applicant, the community and other persons of not granting the special waiver against the adverse impact on the health, safety and welfare of persons affected, the adverse impact of property affected and any other adverse impacts of granting the special waiver.
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 applicant. 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.
The City Administrator 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.
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:
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.
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 5 dBA.
Any 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:
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.
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:
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. and 8:00 a.m.
Commercial districts: 63 dBA between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m.; 59 dBA between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m.
Industrial districts: 85 dBA.
[Amended 4-14-2015 by Ord. No. 502]
When any 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:
By walking beyond the real property boundaries from the source of the specific noise and obtaining an ambient noise level when the specific noise is no longer heard by the operator of the noise meter.
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.
Vehicle repairs. It shall be unlawful for any person within any residence district to repair, rebuild, test or to race the motor of 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.
Vehicular noise limits. All vehicles operating within the boundaries of the City of New Castle must comply with the applicable State of Delaware Regulations pursuant to 7 Delaware Code, Chapter 71.
Aircraft and railroad noise limits. All aircraft and railroads operating within the confines of the City of New Castle shall comply with all applicable federal and state noise regulations.
No person shall operate an engine compression brake within the City of New Castle limits, with the exception of emergency situations.
[Added 3-1-2007 by Ord. No. 447]
An engine compression brake refers to any motor vehicle brake that is operated by the compression of the engine of the motor vehicle or any unit or part thereof.
This section shall not apply to emergency vehicles.
The City Administrator or his/her designee is authorized and directed to post appropriate signs consistent with the provisions of this chapter.
Violations and penalties. Any person who violates any of the provisions of this section and any person, firm or corporation who allows or permits any motor vehicle owned and/or operated by it in violation of any of the provisions of this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction of any violation hereof, shall pay a fine of $100, plus court costs and Victims Compensation Fund assessment.
Severability. It is hereby declared to be the policy of the City of New Castle that if the sections, paragraphs, sentences, clauses and phrases of this chapter shall be declared unconstitutional or invalid by the valid judgment or decree of any court of competent jurisdiction, such unconstitutionality or invalidity shall not affect any of the remaining sections, paragraphs, sentences, clauses and phrases of the chapter.
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 IS.4-197 1), approved April 17, 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 lever meter in decibel units, and such instrument shall produce a calibration sound pressure level having a tolerance no greater than 0.5 dB with a reference sound pressure level of 20 micronewtons per square meter.
Effective date. This chapter shall take effect after approval by City Council and the Mayor.