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Selectmen Put Noise By-law on Annual Town Meeting Warrant

A proposed Town By-law to define and regulate "unlawful" noise will be considered by Town Meeting Members at the May 21 Annual Town Meeting, following the Board's of Selectmen's 2-1 vote on March 19. Selectman William Buckley said he supported the article but wanted to wait until Police Chief Thomas O'Loughlin's concern about enforcing the by-law were addressed.

The proposed by-law has five sections. The first states that "It shall be unlawful for any person or persons to create, assist in creating, continue, or allow to continue any excessive, unnecessary, or unusually loud noise, which either annoys, disturbs, injures or endangers the reasonable quiet, comfort, repose, or the health or safety of others within the Town of Milford." This section also lists sources of noise as including: radio, phonograph, musical instruments, television, yelling, shouting, animal noise, or "devices to attract attention" such as drums or horns.

The next section governs commercial activity generating noise and would prohibit the operation of earth-moving or other heavy vehicles or equipment; jack-hammering or use of power tools; idling of heavy diesel-engine equipped vehicles; building construction, demolition or alteration; and, operation of wood/brush chippers, pneumatic-powered equipment or tools, chainsaws or landscaping equipment between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m.

The third section would exempt emergency vehicles, highway and utility maintenance and construction, non-commercial public address systems, noise from agricultural or forestry equipment, and permitted parades, public gatherings or sporting events from the by-law. The fourth section would make it unlawful for people to cause any "unnecessary, loud, excessive or unusual" noise from operating a motor vehicle if plainly audible 100 feet away.

The final section would institute fines of up to $300 for each violation, which is defined as events that continue or are repeated more than a half-hour after notice of the violation.

"When people are not respectful of people's rights, then we need something," Selectmen Chairman Dino DeBartolomeis said in asking for the article to be placed on the Annual Town Meeting warrant. "Absent the disturbing the peace law, there really isn't anything in place for the police to address these situations," said Selectman Brian Murray. "I think Town Counsel [Gerald Moody] did a nice job in balancing the constitutional questions and coming up with a nice by-law which the Police Department can enforce," he added.

Some resident are "currently experiencing situations which no one should have to deal with," Buckley said. "I think we're close," he said about the article's wording. "I think there's general agreement in principle." He added that "minor issues" needed to be dealt with, such as the noise from homeowners running emergency generators or snow blowers and allowing contractors to get construction equipment ready for transport during certain hours. "These suggestions need to get incorporated into the by-law," Buckley commented.

"I can't vote on anything else than what's presented to me, Murray said. "It was a mistake, Bill, not to go forward several months ago," DeBartolomeis said.

O'Loughlin told The Milford Town Crier that he had no comment to make on Buckley's assertion that the chief had concerns about the proposed by-law.

Selectmen first looked at the proposed by-law last year and placed it on the October 24 Special Town Meeting warrant, but it was passed over because Buckley raised questions about its wording. When the board voted last month to place it on this year's warrant, selectmen chose wording supplied by Town Counsel Gerald Moody. In a memo accompanying the by-law, Moody said he had received input from O'Loughlin and incorporated the chief's "significant changes into the by-law to improve its effectiveness."

Having a general by-law "will give the Police Department real authority to, and a real ability to, provide enforcement whenever and wherever the officers respond and find a problem," Moody wrote. Rather than adopt specific decibel limits which cannot be exceeded, Moody said the model he chose "provides specificity in certain areas where possible but otherwise allows for the reasoned judgment of the enforcing officer. This method isn't fool proof but it avoids unnecessary side disputes. If matters go to court, the focus can be on the activities and whether or not noise had reached unlawful levels, and not technical side issues," the town counsel wrote.


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