Just as litter degrades the landscape of the community, noise degrades the soundscape. The U.S. Census Bureau's "Surveys of Neighborhood Problems," conducted over the past three decades, has consistently placed noise among the top four issues of concern. Noise can interfere with normal residential and business activities. Persistent exposure can result in psychological stress and at high enough levels it can damage hearing.
What Constitutes a Noise Disturbance?
Noise events may occur at random, on occasions when a code enforcement officer with a sound level meter is not available. For those occasions, the ordinance has a provision establishing a noise disturbance violation. The noise disturbance criteria are more subjective, and dependent upon the observations and testimony of witnesses and/or a code enforcement officer.
A noise disturbance, as defined by the Montgomery County Noise Ordinance, is any sound that is:
Under the ordinance, it is unlawful to create a noise disturbance anywhere during quiet hours, including multi-family buildings and townhouses. The nuisance provision prohibits some noise disturbances anywhere at any time.
*Noises associated with motorized vehicles (automobiles, trucks, motorcycles, dirt bikes and ATV’s) are regulated under the State Motor Vehicle Code by the Police, and not subject to enforcement under the Montgomery County Noise Control Ordinance.
Resolving Noise Control Issues
The following Montgomery County services are available to help you resolve noise issues:
Because many noise disturbances are not witnessed by an enforcement officer, the ordinance has a unique provision allowing residents to file a two-party noise complaint with DEP.
More Things You Can Do to Reduce Noise Problems
Whether you live in a single-family home, a multi-family building, or a townhouse or condo, you can help maintain a quiet environment by following a few common-sense guidelines:
Businesses can also be good neighbors and comply with the ordinance by limiting the following activities to daytime hours:
Also, keep noise control in mind when building or renovating and be sure to follow all the applicable regulations within the Noise Control Ordinance.
It is also helpful to be mindful of noise throughout the day. Our community is changing because smart growth and land use planning is clustering development into multiple-use areas. Traditional residential areas now share space with a variety of commercial uses. There is a greater opportunity for business noise to be a disturbance to those living nearby. Further, an increasing number of people now run businesses from their homes or telecommute - a midweek afternoon lawn service might now interrupt an at-home teleconference.
How Is Noise Measured?
The standard unit by which sound is measured is the decibel (dB), a relative measure of sound intensity. Decibels are calculated on a logarithmic scale (meaning that a measure of 40 dB is 10 times greater than one of 30 dB). Some examples of typical situations and their corresponding decibel levels are:
* Note: The ordinance uses an A-weighted scale, measured in A-weighted decibels (dBA). A-weighting is an electronic approximation.
Decibels are a measure of sound intensity—the pressure of sound waves on the human ear. They provide a standardized, objective unit of measure and differ from a measure of the perceived "loudness" of a sound.
Loudness is a subjective measure because different people have different levels of hearing and don't experience sound in the same way. Someone who is hard of hearing, for example, might not perceive a jackhammer as loud while someone with excellent hearing could be disturbed by the same noise. Both people, however, would experience the same level of sound intensity.
Be Aware! When continuous exposure to sound reaches 85 dBA (as in a factory), there is a great risk of permanent hearing loss.
Procedures Governing the Measurement of Noise Levels by Montgomery County
During business hours, Code Enforcement personnel from the Department of Environmental Protection investigate complaints by using sound level meters to measure dBA levels at property lines. After regular business hours the ordinance allows police officers to issue citations for noise disturbances on their own judgment and with the testimony of witnesses.