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Board OKs advertising noise ordinance


Special to The Press

One of the items discussed during the virtual Aug. 19 South Whitehall commissioners’ meeting was approval of a motion to advertise the township’s new noise control ordinance.

Code Enforcement Officer Tom Harper said there is currently no noise ordinance, and disturbances have been one of the more common complaints encountered.

He said the new ordinance would provide for greater regulation, control and enforcement to preserve quality of life.

The ordinance applies to industrial and commercial establishments, as well as residents.

The ordinance would address loud music, “loud or raucous yelling, hooting, whistling or singing on the public streets” from 11 p.m. to 8 a.m., animal noises, loading operations, power tools, construction and fireworks, among other disturbances.

Regarding fireworks, Harper said in addition to state statute requirements the ordinance holds a property owner, leasee, possessor or agent responsible for the activity.

The ordinance’s text specifies the use of consumer fireworks within the township is prohibited before 4 p.m. and after 9 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, and before 4 p.m. and after 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, with exceptions for Dec. 31 and Jan. 1.

Harper said the method for implementing the ordinance will be the “plainly audible” standard - any sound that can be detected by a person’s own faculties.

He said this will allow responding officers to easily verify that a sound has crossed the real property boundary or constitute a disturbance or violation.

He also said the ordinance’s adoption would allow code enforcement and South Whitehall Township Police to address disturbances by introducing the use of violation ticketing as an additional tool along with common enforcement methods - warnings, notices and citations.

The violation ticket fine will be $100, and Harper said the tickets could result in a quicker path to compliance and also keep noise nuisances out of district court.

Regarding questions about notifying residents of the ordinance, Harper said a brochure is in the works, and he and members of the police department have been attending community meetings to explain the ordinance.

He said that public education and explanation “goes a long way” toward compliance before turning to citations or fines.

Police Chief Glen Dorney added that the ordinance would be promoted by the department’s social media, and education of the public would be a priority help with compliance.

Harper was asked about repeat offenses.

He said the ordinance is set up so it would be the officer’s discretion to issue violation tickets, warnings or citations.

Depending on circumstances and the situation, standard operating procedures for enforcement will be established.

Dorney said officers would need to directly hear or observe the noise in order to consider it a disturbance, which he said would avoid people repeatedly reporting disturbances due to petty squabbles with neighbors.

Solicitor Joseph Zator said the ordinance would likely be on one of the board’s September meeting agendas and would take effect 30 days after adoption.