Sequim City Council to hold hearing on new noise ordinance tonight

By Joe Smillie
Peninsula Daily News

SEQUIM –– Residents and businesses in the city may soon have to watch exactly how much noise they are pumping out.

A number of complaints about noisy neighbors in the last year has prompted city officials to review how they determine violations of the noise ordinance, and the proposed new revisions include precise measurements of that noise.

City Council members will conduct a hearing at 6 p.m. today on the proposed ordinance before considering adoption.

The hearing will be in the Sequim Transit Center, 190 W. Cedar St.

The new ordinance would adopt state noise standards that require the city use a special meter to measure actual decibel levels.

City Attorney Craig Ritchie said the new code lends more actual measurements to the city code that is currently based on complaints by neighbors.

“As the code is now, if people complain it’s too noisy, then it’s too noisy,” Ritchie said. “So it’s not all that helpful.”

Ritchie noted most all those who have received complaints about their noise levels have adjusted.

“Frankly, we haven’t had problems where people don’t obey when police tell them to turn it down,” he said.

Earlier this year, the city received a number of complaints about noise coming from Krush, the Rock Plaza restaurant that recently closed.

“That was what made us look at getting an ordinance together that is a little more clear,” Ritchie said. “And this one is because we’ll have measurements. A decibel’s a decibel.”

Chris Hugo, community development director, said the proposed new law expands the half-page existing ordinance to five pages.

“That’s what it took to make our activities legal and defensible and objective,” Hugo said.

A noise meter and an instrument to keep it calibrated would cost almost $1,000.

Police or the city’s code compliance officer would respond to noise complaints to measure noise on the spot.

A violation would be registered if noise was measured at louder than 55 decibels — a normal conversational speech volume — at another residence more than 50 feet away in residential neighborhoods.

In commercial areas, noise could be up to 57 decibels.

Those limits would fall by 10 decibels after 10 p.m.

Violators would receive a civil infraction for a first offense. Repeat offenses within 24 hours could garner a fee of $100 a day for every day the noise violation continued.

Construction projects and parades would be exempt between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m.

Appeals of noise complaints would be heard by a hearings examiner, Ritchie said.

“It’s unfortunate we have to have the five-page code to do such things, when in the past you could just ask your neighbor to be quiet, or more quiet,” Council member Laura Dubois said during the last City Council meeting.

________

Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Joe Smillie can be reached at 360-681-2390, ext. 5052, or at jsmillie@peninsuladaily
news.com.

Last modified: March 09. 2014 7:17PM
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