Noise law passes

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Posted: Monday, July 11, 2011 11:55 pm | Updated: 10:47 am, Tue Jul 12, 2011.

One day after Bike Week ended, the nine-member Gettysburg Borough Council voted unanimously to adopt a “comprehensive noise ordinance” Monday night.

Many council members called the proposed code a “good first start,” that will allow police to regulate what they feel is inappropriate overnight noise. Previously, there was no law in Gettysburg enabling the borough to regulate construction, vehicle clatter, power tools, the unloading or loading of vehicles, or other noise disturbances.

“We’ve waited a long time for it,” Councilwoman Claire Lewis said regarding the ordinance, which was first proposed back in 2008, but mired under internal and legal review.

Borough Council President John Butterfield called the new law an “important piece of legislation.”

Bike Week wasn’t specifically addressed during the public comment portion of the meeting, but loud motorcycles were cited. 

“There are a lot of issues of noise in the borough other than vehicles, and that is the most difficult to consider when you are doing an ordinance. We have to consider all of those other disturbances,” explained Mayor William E. Troxell, who thanked the board for spending “hundreds of hours on this thing.”

Veteran Councilman Ted Streeter warned citizens that “noise isn’t going to stop because we passed a piece of legislation tonight.” 

“It’s going to be very difficult to enforce, because of the movement of vehicles and enforcement procedures,” said Streeter, a 15-year board member. “I hope the police department isn’t bombarded with phone calls, because by the time somebody gets there, (the vehicle) will be gone.”

Councilwoman Susan Naugle, a member of the ordinance committee that researched the law, noted that her panel “struggled with some of the issues that were raised.” 

“Noise is often transient, it is there and it’s gone,” she said, calling the ordinance a “reasonable approach that affords residents peace and quiet in their own home.” 

“Our solicitor assured us that in Pennsylvania, our approach has been backed up by case law,“ added Councilwoman Naugle.

Councilman Bob Krummerich, chairman of the borough’s finance committee, said he had two initial concerns, mainly that the ordinance may get “caught up in costly litigation,” if appealed to a higher court. 

“I’m also concerned about asking our police force to use law enforcement methods to stop a social issue,” said Councilman Krummerich, an outgoing member of the board. “I’m hoping that whoever is on council next year, will keep looking at it so it doesn’t become unenforceable.”

Councilman Alice Estrada reminded the 25 citizens who attended the borough’s monthly business meeting that the law won’t be a quick fix in limiting noise throughout the historic town. 

“I don’t want everyone to be lulled into a false sense of enforcement — it is going to be difficult to enforce on many levels,” said Estrada. “It’s subjective, and we cannot invest in decibel meters to do readings,” said Councilwoman Estrada.

The ordinance isn’t aimed at one specific noise generator, and instead aims to regulate 17 types of noise disturbances, such as power tools, squealing tires and barking dogs. 

“No one expects this to be easy to be enforce,” said Councilman Graham Weaver, who has complained about loud parties next to his residence in Colt Park. He reminded citizens that “not all of the noise in the borough comes from motorcycles,” pointing out that in his opinion, there are “eight or 10 other sources of  noise in Gettysburg.”

 “If it doesn’t work within a few months, we can always amend it and make it better,” Weaver said regarding the new ordinance.

Nine citizens spoke about the ordinance during the “public comment” portion of the meeting, with all but one — John Shuss — supporting. Shuss told council that he reviewed enforcement, and the law’s effect on the judicial branch, and wasn‘t impressed. 

“The purpose of the proposed ordinance is scientifically useless,“ said Shuss, since the code “relies on the judgment of the officer.” “It does not distinguish different noise ordinances in different zones, or public versus private property, and how they are to be enforced,” continued Shuss, a 1950 graduate of Penn State University, who has worked in the electronic industry.  Shuss pointed out that the Commonwealth of Virginia has “declared this type of standard unconstitutional.” 

“You’ll need to test the officer’s hearing, and then determine if it’s normal,” noted Shuss.

The other eight citizens who spoke about the ordinance didn’t seem to mind that the new law relies on police discretion. Colt Park resident Bernadette Sterner believes the code will be a “useful” tool for police in regulating rowdy parties in her neighborhood. 

“I think it would be an asset to give police officers more leeway,” said Sterner.

Similarly, Baltimore Street resident Judy Pyle supported the code, as she and other residents have voiced concern about motorcycles, ghost tours and idling buses noise years.

 “I appreciate the fact that you’ve gone so long in working on a noise ordinance,” said Pyle, of 302 Baltimore Street.

Barlow Street resident Lefty Biser, representing the Hazel Alley citizens group near Gettysburg College, thinks the law gives residents and police more leverage in combating noise disturbances, especially at night when residents are trying to sleep.

Carlisle Street resident Ted McPherson lives near Gettysburg College, and has raised concern about parties, noise and student behavior over the past few years.

 “It’s a quality of life issue,” McPherson said regarding the new noise ordinance.

Lutheran Theological Seminary spokesman John Spangler echoed members of council in calling the ordinance a “good start,” although “it’s probably not where the borough wants to end up in the long run.” 

“Objective standards are always helpful in enforcement. I encourage the borough to think about where it wants to be, as standards become more enforceable,” finished Spangler.

Efforts to adopt an ordinance date back to 2008, but the proposal has mired under legal and internal review. It was publicly advertised and available for review for 30 days on the borough’s website, prior to the vote.

Councilman Michael J. Birkner, chairman of the board’s public safety committee, cast the motion to adopt the ordinance, and was seconded by Councilman Graham Weaver. 

Following the unanimous vote, Pyle clapped in celebration.

Excessive noise is now standardized from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. with exemptions including church bells, emergency vehicles, ambulances.

The ordinance prohibits noise disturbances that affect private property, and was modeled after Environmental Protection Act standards, with similar noise laws studied in Cumberland Township, Lancaster, New Hope, Chambersburg and Carlisle.

Penalties for first time violators are $150 to $1,000,; $300 to $1,000 for second time violators; $500 to $1,000 for the third violation, and $1,000 afterwards.


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  • short stuff posted at 7:06 pm on Sat, Jul 16, 2011.

    short stuff Posts: 2

    i am wondering with this noise ordinence in effect. Are the police going to stop and give the ambulance a ticket for excessive noise after 11pm. Are they going to give medic 28 a ticket. Are they going to give county controll a ticket when they set the fire alarm off after 11pm when there is a house fire or an accident. Just wondering what there going to do about that noise after 11pm??????

  • short stuff posted at 7:00 pm on Sat, Jul 16, 2011.

    short stuff Posts: 2

    hey keywest goes to show what u know about truck drivers. The goverment reguires all tractor trailors to have jake brakes on them. This is a safety feature. All the signs around this town and all other towns are making these trucks turn off there safety features which can cause a wreck. This has happened and the law suit was very steep. The town almost went bankrupt over this.

  • Peacesign posted at 12:00 am on Wed, Jul 13, 2011.

    Peacesign Posts: 6

    Noise, it's everywhere, it really does exist at all hours. So how can one put a time schedule and range level on this subject. Say, you live above a bakery and hear loud swearing when the muffins are burnt in the wee hours of the morning. Or a neighbor has relatives visiting and they arrive around three a.m. and with all the commotion of unloading they are loud, How about a raccoon family decides to knock over your trashcans and causing havoc jumping in and out of them. You just moved into a new apartment and the lady upstairs decides to vaccumn and wash ten loads of laundry. With all these examples, do you call the fuzz because they are being too loud for you. Perhaps, you'll let it slide and say it's all about being alive and living it......Peace~

  • localguy posted at 9:53 pm on Tue, Jul 12, 2011.

    localguy Posts: 110

    Hey "one eyed jack", you took the words right out of my mouth, thank you!

  • KeyWestFLlover posted at 9:16 pm on Tue, Jul 12, 2011.

    KeyWestFLlover Posts: 5

    Awwwww, what's the matter one eyed jack? Did I hit a nerve? You drive a truck and got your panties in a bunch now because they might actually start ticketing you for using you Jake brake in town? Wait a minute while grab a tissue to dry my eyes so I can see the computer.

  • one eyed jack posted at 4:26 pm on Tue, Jul 12, 2011.

    one eyed jack Posts: 11

    Hey Key west,Why dont either move there, or stay there.

  • KeyWestFLlover posted at 1:46 pm on Tue, Jul 12, 2011.

    KeyWestFLlover Posts: 5

    As I sit here writing this, I listen to a dump truck coming to a stop on Hanover Street at Rt 30. Downshifting in his EMPTY truck with the use of the Jake brake! This goes on constantly, yet there are signs prior to entering Gettysburg prohibiting the use of engine brakes. Well.......if you're going to have signs, laws, regulations and or statutes......ENFORCE THEM!!! If not, then take down the stupid useless signs. If it is an actual necessity for a truck driver to utilize a Jake brake in the confines of a town on level ground then he/she needs to find another occupation. They don't know how to drive a truck. I guarantee, all it would take is one citation and the drivers would start turning them off or disengaging them prior to entering town. Their CDL is dependant upon it!

  • FF7261 posted at 10:57 am on Tue, Jul 12, 2011.

    FF7261 Posts: 2

    If you don't want to hear any noise from college kids then move away from the college, if you don't want to hear car or truck noise then don't live on a a heavily traveled street, if you don't want to hear airplanes then don't move next to an airport. All of this is avoidable you whiny, complaining people who want a beautiful historic , college town to be quiet as a country home with no one around for miles, well people I will have to say ITS NOT GOING TO HAPPEN so get over it and deal with it. Now, I do believe that some nois is avoidable and enforceable such as construction at night , powerwashing roofs and or decks, loud music at 3am and of course just the overall ignorance of people being loud and intentionally causing "EXCESSIVE NOISE". If I were the Police Dept and Borough Council then I would seriously consider purchasing a decibel meter because we all know that there are ALOT of people who will callenge a noise citation and if not with the proper evidence will most likely win this case. I dont know much about if anything about the statutes of the law but more times than none COMMON SENSE will prevail.

  • RDLF posted at 10:41 am on Tue, Jul 12, 2011.

    RDLF Posts: 30

    Enforcement of the law often relies on police discretion. What noisy planet is Shuss from?

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