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Township adopts noise control rules for residents, businesses, industry


Special to The Press

During their brief virtual Sept. 2 meeting, South Whitehall Township commissioners took a significant step to preserve residents’ quality of life by unanimously voting to adopt a new noise control ordinance.

The ordinance addresses loud music, sound systems and instruments, yelling and shouting between 11 p.m. and 8 a.m., animal noises, vehicles, loading operations, power tools usage and construction, among other disturbances, and applies to industrial and commercial establishments as well as residents.

Regarding fireworks, the ordinance specifies that their use 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 New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

Commissioner Matthew Mobilio voiced his support for the ordinance, adding that while it was “by no means perfect it was a great starting point.”

He said it provides a solid framework to add additional changes in the future, as necessary.

“I am happy to vote in favor of this to get something on the books; a solid ordinance to work with,” he said.

In response to a question by Commissioner Mike Wolk, who also voiced his support for the ordinance, about “how disturbing is disturbing,” Code Enforcement Manager Tom Harper said when a complaint is received and a township police officer arrives on-scene, if he or she can hear the noise crossing the property line, it could constitute a disturbance.

Harper noted the “plainly audible” standard will be used to implement the ordinance.

This refers to any sound that can be detected by a person using their own faculties.

He said officers or code enforcement staff will be able to use their discretion when responding to noise disturbances.

He also noted the goal of code enforcement, the police department and the township is to educate residents and businesses about the ordinance, and to get compliance.

Regarding questions about penalties Harper said, in addition to education, code enforcement and South Whitehall Township Police also have provisions to issue $100 violation tickets, which he said at the board’s Aug. 19 meeting could result in quicker compliance and keep noise disturbances out of district court.

Harper also noted that officers can also file notices and citations, such as for repeat violators, which will go before a magistrate and can result in a fine up to $1,000.

Furthermore, he and Police Chief Glen Dorney both said that while the noise ordinance does address vehicle noise, jake brakes are not covered under the ordinance, as Dorney noted that the brakes serve a legitimate safety purpose for trucks.

Dorney also said residents should not hesitate to contact the department to report a noise disturbance, adding they are going to rely on the public to know if a disturbance is occurring.

He said while officers could take a “proactive stance” against noise disturbances, if they come across one, “typically with noise complaints we’re getting it from somebody who’s obviously disturbed by it.

“It doesn’t matter whether it annoys us because it’s not the disturbance for us. We’re not the resident who would be the person to initiate the complaint.”

After the board’s unanimous vote, board President Christina “Tori” Morgan thanked all parties involved in creating the noise ordinance.

“This is the beginning to a very helpful document for quality of life.”

The ordinance will take effect 30 days after adoption, as explained by Solicitor Joe Zator in August.