Editorial: The sound of change

It’s finally done. Southold is no longer the only town on Long Island without a noise ordinance. The Town Board erased that distinction with a unanimous vote Tuesday night.

It was a long time coming. For years Town Hall has been peppered with requests for help from residents upset largely by the pounding sound of amplified music. After considerable back and forth the Town Board established a set of decibel limits and will equip all police patrol cars and town code enforcement officers with noise meters. The devil is not just in the details, it’s in enforcement.

Although we wish it were otherwise, the ordinance unfortunately does not cover helicopter noise. The town is limited to controlling sounds of terrestrial origin. In general, it also doesn’t apply to farm operations. The noise of an irrigation pump engine running at night might be annoying to some, but the “right to farm” provision of the town code states, “We find that whatever nuisance may be caused to others by such uses and activities, so conducted, is more than offset by the benefits from farming to the community.”

The need for codified noise limits may seem a stake in the heart of the town’s image as a rural, agricultural community, one of the last of its kind on Long Island. And it may seem more than just a bit ironic to some that the law was enacted in the same week as the comprehensive plan public discussion on maintaining Southold’s “community character.” In fact, the two are very much connected. Southold’s community character is not defined by out of control music, whether from a bar or a neighborhood party. Think of it this way: Good noise limits, like good fences, make good neighbors.

And it’s certainly not neighborly to attempt to gain the upper hand in personal disputes by calling the police over lawn mowers, leaf blowers or other common sounds. The police have far more important matters to attend to.

There will undoubtedly be some bumps in the road in implementing the noise code, this time of year especially. But if applied honestly and fairly, it will only enhance our much-coveted community character.