The Gainesville City Council is expected to vote on an ordinance which may limit bass-thumping from cars and excessive dog barking, among other noises, tonight.

The City Council is scheduled to meet at 6:30 p.m. tonight at the Municipal Building, 200 S. Rusk St.

“Excessive sound within the limits of the city is a condition which has existed for some time, and the amount and intensity of such sound is increasing,” according to a “findings of fact” portion of the proposed ordinance. “Such excessive sound is detrimental to the public health, safety, welfare and quality of life for the residents of the City.”

According to the city charter the Council is scheduled to read the ordinance at the next two meetings — tonight and May 15 — and vote on the ordinance at each meeting. The Council has the option of suspending the charter and passing the ordinance tonight.

Some aspects of the proposed ordinance change include:

• Limiting the maximum, daytime noise level to 63 decibels during the daytime and 56 decibels during the nighttime in residential areas and all abutting public right-of-way.

• Limiting the maximum, daytime noise level to 72 decibels during the daytime and 63 at nighttime in commercial property and other properties which do not fit into any zoning category (65 decibels nighttime for industrial).

• Prohibition of noises with “such volume, intensity, or duration as to disturb a person with average and normal hearing” such as “unreasonable noises in the form of: Barking dogs, car alarms, vehicle exhaust, engine braking systems (jake brakes), radios, boom boxes, musical instruments, and other devices which reproduce or amplify sound; the cries of peddlers, hawkers and vendors; any noise during nighttime in a residential or noise-sensitive area which can be heard beyond the real property line of the premises from which the noise is originating; and noise (of) shooting a gun or fireworks, including such noise created at sports shooting ranges ...”

• Prohibition of noise-producing vibration from vehicles which can be heard from a distance of more than 30 feet.

But not all loud noises would be prohibited, including: methods of alerting persons of danger, sound coming from an emergency work, sirens and alarms used by government entities such as police and fire departments, repairs of bridges, streets and roads during the nighttime when necessary, athletic events for school teams, horns on passenger vehicles, sounds from fireworks approved by the city fire marshall, and bells rung for religious purposes.

The ordinance change specifies a sound level meter meeting standards of the American Standards Association and using the A-weighted scale to be used in measuring decibel levels. The measuring instrument should be calibrated and in good working order, according to the ordinance proposal.

All measurements are to be taken at least 300 feet from the source of a noise. The Gainesville Police Department, under the authority of the chief of police, would have exclusive authority in enforcing the law, including the power to confiscate noise-producing items for a period of up to 24 hours if the owner proves ownership and claims the item.

An offense of the proposed noise ordinance, if passed, would result in a fine of at least $100 but not exceeding $2,000. A second violation starts at $200 and may not exceed $2,000.

Any persons wishing to speak on the ordinance changes may sign up to speak to the City Council prior to the meeting. The city may be contacted at 668-4500.

Reporter Andy Hogue may be contacted at andyhoguegdr@ntin.net

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