Others, like former Mayor Jason West, found certain sections of the law to contain some strange restrictions.
“I’m in favor of the noise ordinance,” West said, but added that he thought the current version “seems to be incredibly broad.”
For instance, the sections on when power tools and lawn mowers are allowed seemed a bit troubling to the village’s former leader. “You can’t use your lawn mower after 6 p.m. on a weekend,” he said.
Businesses, tool users and lawn maintainers all have the restriction of not being able to create excessive noise for 11 hours on weekdays, between 8 p.m. and 7 a.m. During weekends and holidays, that “quiet time” comes even earlier and lasts longer -- clocking in at a full 15 hours -- from 6 p.m. and lasts to 9 a.m.
For people who work late and only have the chance to mow their lawn, blow leaves or blow snow out of their yards, Saturdays and Sundays might be the only chance they have, West said.
The current version of the law says that within those time limits, “noise in the conduct of any business” is prohibited. West noted that the entire section on business-produced noise never used the word “excessive,” which could lead to a misapplication of the law.
For landlords, the fines apply directly to them -- even if it was their renters who made an unreasonable racket. West said he didn’t like the “guilt by association” in the law.
Sandy Kaplan, a New Paltz resident, said she wanted the Village Board to pass the law as is, adding that college undergrads didn’t have much thought for their adult neighbors. “They haven’t a clue as to what consideration is,” she said.
Mike Beck, of P&G’s Restaurant, read a statement from the New Paltz Tavern Owners Association, which did find some problems with the proposed noise ordinance.
“We haven’t been involved in the process since last fall. We felt we got asked to the dance a little late,” explained Beck, who added that the bar owners’ meeting with the ad-hoc “quality of life” group went well.
The bar owners in town want the law to require complainers to have their windows and doors closed at the time of their complaint.
“It’s no quieter now than it was 30 years ago,” he said, adding that New Paltz had a history as a noisy college town with a late night crowd. People also know where the bars are along Main Street. “It’s the business district. It’s been there.”
The tavern owners also had a problem with a part of the law that left decibel meter readings up to the police officer.
“At the discretion of the law enforcement officer, a decibel reading may be taken to confirm a noise violation,” the draft law reads.
It goes on to say that the cop should consider 75 decibels in business districts or 60 decibels in residential neighborhoods a violation from 7 a.m. until 9 p.m. And then, from 9 p.m. until 7 a.m., noises louder than 60 decibels in business districts or 50 decibels in residential neighborhoods would be a violation.
During the past year, one of the biggest hang-ups with the noise ordinance has been to test for and insert decibel levels. The Jan. 20 version of the law, however, relies less on the decibel readings -- leaving it up to individual police officers to run the test and gather evidence -- and more on a consistent standard of whether the noise can be heard 50 feet away from its source of origin.
New Paltz’s Tenant-Landlord Relations Council also delivered a prepared statement through its spokesperson Ira Margolis. While the group has a big stake in noise discussion, they said they felt a bit left out of the process.
Margolis said that the council did not approve of passing the proposed law and thought the village should keep the current law. However, if the village did pass it, they should add a maximum fine to the penalty section and change the time restrictions in the law.
Penalties for breaking the noise ordinance would include:
• A written warning for a first offense.
• A fine of “not less than $100” for a second offense. A second offense can be considered to occur after only 15 minutes.
• A fine of “not less than $150” for a third violation.
• A fine of “not less than $200” for a fourth violation.
• And a fine of “not less than $200” for any further violations.
According to the January draft of the law, persons or addresses known to have been offenders in the past are tracked for a full year. If any noise violations happen during that period -- “occurring less than 12 months after the last violation” -- the offender will face the next step up on the violation scale.
What the Landlord-Tenant Council objected to was that “no less than” phrase in the penalty part of the proposed noise ordinance. Technically, that could give a judge carte blanche to dole out fines anywhere above that initial $100 fine.
Sally Rhoads, one of the members of the quality of life group that drafted the law with Mayor Terry Dungan, said she thought the board should pass the current law. In 2010, the Village Board did have a public hearing on a previous version of the law -- only to go back to the drawing board and change the decibel limits.
“This has been around for two-and-a-half years,” Rhoads said, adding that after the first public hearing the quality of life group had tried to address the previous complaints.
“We as a community ought to get our act together,” she said. “This is a law of civility.”
KT Tobin Flusser, a village resident, said she felt that the board had perhaps veered away from the initial intent of the law, which was to create a regulation the New Paltz Police Department could actually enforce.
Tobin Flusser urged them to consider the basic questions about the law, such as why they needed the change in the first place and whether the decibel levels were enforceable. “I feel like we’re still kind of fleshing this piece of it out,” she said.
Eve Stern, a SUNY New Paltz student from the Student Association, read a prepared statement from the student government group. One thing that troubled college students was how “ambient noise” was defined and whether the law would crack down on street musicians.
“Within the environment of New Paltz, this is a community that’s very supportive of music and the arts,” Stern said. Also a problem for SUNY students was a paragraph at the end of the law specifically targeting keg parties.
“For any violation of this section where beer is being served from a keg on the premises, the person to whom the keg is registered shall also be presumed to be responsible for the violation,” the law reads.
That “keg language” is a clear indication that the law is gunning for students, she added.
Trustee Shari Osborn spoke up, denying that the keg part of the law was meant to target students. She added that adults, including herself, host backyard parties where they get a keg to serve their guests.
SUNY New Paltz senior Adir Cohen spoke up and said he didn’t like the law as proposed. He also said he though musicians might be unfairly targeted by the law. College students too are already under the eye of police just for being a student. “We don’t need another excuse for the cops to hassle us,” he said.
Barbara Hardgrave, a New Paltz resident who supports the law, said she didn’t think the law was going to eliminate busking or street music.
“I don’t think anyone is anti-musician or anti-artist,” Hardgrave said. However, the argument used frequently by people opposed to the law of “this is a college town, get used to it” didn’t sit well with her.
“I came as a very, very young faculty member,” she said, recalling her introduction to New Paltz. In that time, rooming houses filled with students have gone up behind her house -- in a place she used to think was safe from being developed. “Generally, the noise has increased.”
Village Board members did not vote on the law last week, but instead voted to keep the hearing open until the March 9 meeting. To accommodate the potential crowd of people who might come to speak about the noise ordinance, the meeting will start earlier than usual at 7 p.m.
To get a look at the full Jan. 20 version of the law, head to www.villageofnewpaltz.org.
Written comments can be delivered in person to Village Hall or mailed to P.O. Box 877, New Paltz, NY. E-mailed comments can be sent to the village clerk at email@example.com.