Proposed Berkeley Co. noise law tweaked

November 18, 2005|by CANDICE BOSELY

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Noise caused by sporting events, farm activities, traffic, trains, planes, lawn and garden equipment, forestry machinery and emergency vehicles would be exempt from Berkeley County's proposed noise ordinance.

County attorney Norwood Bentley provided the Berkeley County Commission with a revised copy of the draft ordinance at its meeting Thursday morning.

A second public hearing on the ordinance is scheduled for the commissioners' Dec. 8 meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. The ordinance could be approved after the public hearing, Commission President Steve Teufel said.


In the revised ordinance, Bentley also increased the fine violators would have to pay. A first violation is now punishable with a fine of up to $100, while subsequent violations would result in fines of up to $1,000.

A previous draft of the ordinance capped fines at $250.

The ordinance would prohibit noise levels above 60 decibels for residential areas, 65 decibels by commercial businesses and in offices and noise levels above 70 decibels produced by industrial companies.

The acceptable levels would be lowered by 5 decibels from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.

Sixty decibels is equivalent to the sound produced by conversation in a restaurant or background music, while a vacuum cleaner produces noise levels of around 70 decibels, according to information on Temple University's Web site.

Although some have said the acceptable decibel levels should be lowered, Bentley said he crafted the ordinance based on what a person hears, not on the decibel level emitted from a machine or other noise source.

Some of the exceptions to the ordinance have exceptions themselves.

For example, normal traffic is exempt but noise caused by vehicles without mufflers can still be considered a violation of the ordinance.

Also, noise caused by lawn and garden equipment does not violate the ordinance, provided the equipment is used between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m.

Officers with the Berkeley County Sheriff's Department would enforce the ordinance.

Over the last few years, the commissioners have passed several ordinances, including a vicious dog ordinance, an ordinance attempting to control ATV usage on public roads and an ordinance controlling the locations of adult-oriented businesses.

Public hearing

What: A second public hearing on Berkeley County's proposed noise ordinance

When: Dec. 8, 7 p.m.

Where: Berkeley County Commission chambers, second floor of the Dunn Building, 400 W. Stephen St., Martinsburg, W.Va.

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