Southold tweaks last year’s proposed noise code for July 5 hearing

Southolders who make a lot of noise might not have long before the town starts cracking down.

The public will have a chance to weigh in on Southold Town’s first-ever noise ordinance, initially proposed over nine months ago, at a public hearing at Town Hall on July 5 at 7:30 p.m. Southold is the only East End town without a noise code on the books.

Last summer, after ever-increasing complaints about amplified music from a few venues in town, Town Board members said they hoped to have a noise code in place not long after Labor Day.

But after many residents said at a hearing in early October that they believed the noise restrictions in the proposed code — 65 decibels during the day and 50 decibels at night at the property line — were too stringent, the board spent several months attempting to schedule a meeting with a noise meter vendor, who would take a meter into the field to determine if those limits were acceptable.

That meeting never took place, but last Wednesday the board’s code committee examined noise ordinances in neighboring towns. They then decided the noise restrictions in the original draft needed little tweaking.

Southampton and East Hampton towns have very similar regulations on the books, limiting noise at the property line to 65 decibels during the day and 50 at night, while Shelter Island limits noise to 50 decibels at the property line at all times.

The first draft of Southold’s law limited noise to 50 decibels between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. on weekdays and 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. The new draft will allow 65 decibels until 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

The new draft also allows homeowners to use light residential outdoor equipment until 9 p.m. instead of 7 p.m.

Since it was first proposed, the law has exempted construction work, noise from agricultural equipment, snowblowers, rescue personnel responding to emergencies and several other common sources of noise. The intent was to focus enforcement on amplified music that spills over into residential areas from bars and other businesses.

Councilman Chris Talbot said Tuesday he believes some confusion surrounding the initial code draft came from people not understanding where noise levels would be measured.

Noise analysts estimate that the sound generated by a normal conversation is between 60 and 70 decibels. That’s the level if a reading is taken right next to the people talking. If a reading is taken at the property when the people speaking are in the center of a two-acre lot, the decibel meter would likely not pick up any of the conversation.

The latest draft also attempts to precisely define which property line is to be used for taking a measurement. The initial draft read that it could be taken at “any lot line of the property on which such noise pollution is being generated.” The new draft states that it should be taken at “the property line closest to where the noise is generated.”

Some Town Board members found the early language confusing, arguing that the way it was phrased, if someone on Nassau Point in Cutchogue complained about noise coming from Greenport the measurement would be taken on the beach in Cutchogue.

Mr. Talbot said it makes sense to take the reading at the boundary of the property where the noise is originating.

“If it’s not over the decibel level at the property line, it’s not going to be over farther away,” he said.

Anne Murray, who lives near the former Blue Dolphin, long a source of loud music at night, welcomes the board’s action. (The Blue Dolphin was purchased by a South Fork hotel owner this winter and renamed the Inn at the Blue.)

“Thank you on behalf of the East Marion Community Association for finally putting a noise ordinance to public hearing,” Ms Murray said. “It’s something we were hoping would happen for a couple years now.”

On another code matter, a proposed law banning parking on most of Factory Avenue in Mattituck, which has long been plagued by truck traffic headed for the adjacent Mattituck shopping plaza, is also scheduled for public hearing on the evening of July 5.
The Factory Avenue restrictions would ban parking or standing at any time along the entire length of the street’s west side, and from the LIRR tracks north to Old Sound Avenue on the east. A 300-foot-long 30-minute loading area is proposed between the shopping plaza entrance and the railroad tracks.

Board members said Tuesday that the manager of Waldbaum’s supermarket told the town’s transportation commission that the shopping center’s owners, the Cardinale family, oppose the idea of having trucks in their lot instead of on the street while waiting to make deliveries.

“What he allows or doesn’t allow there is none of our business,” said Councilman Al Krupski. “It’s private property. He can tell them to leave.”

Though board members have expressed reservations in recent months about whether a parking ban is the best solution, they said Tuesday that they believe the best way to address the problem is to hear public comments and then make revisions, if necessary.

[email protected]