Belmont noise law hindered by lack of decibel meters
BELMONT — City officials have begun enforcing a new, stricter noise ordinance that was quietly adopted this summer, but officers say they don’t yet have the equipment they need to determine when something is too loud.
Until recently, Belmont’s noise rules applied mainly to construction noise and devices such as leaf blowers, but didn’t provide any protection from noisy residents, according to Councilwoman Coralin Feierbach. The new rules, which took effect Aug. 24, set a hard cap on noise: if you’re measuring it from a residential property, no noise can be louder than 65 decibels duringthe day or 55 decibels at night.
Normal speech from about five feet away is 55 decibels, according to Community Development Director Carlos De Melo.
One annual Belmont event — a back-to-school concert at Notre Dame De Namur University — was shut down at 9:30 p.m. on a weeknight after multiple neighbors complained to local police and to Feierbach, who went to the college to shut down the event.
“The band was playing as loud as it could possibly be playing. That was completely against the noise ordinance,” she said.
However, officers in the city’s police department and code-enforcement division — the ones who will be responding to the bulk of Belmont’s noise complaints — do not have decibel meters to determine when someone has exceeded the new limits, according to Belmont Police Sgt. Patrick Halleran.
“We don’t have meters and we haven’t been trained on them yet,” Halleran said. “That’s something we have to work through.”
Ordering those meters, and performing some outreach and education so that locals know the new ordinance exists and how it works, is a top city priority in the coming weeks, according to De Melo. He plans to recommend ordering two meters that will cost Belmont about $500 each.
Until then, Belmont noisemakers may wind up receiving some surprise visits from police or local officials, as the university did.
“We’ll do everything we can to avoid it being an issue, but I can’t guarantee we’ll never have an event that some neighbors won’t complain about,” said Notre Dame de Namur spokesman Richard Rossi. “It is a college town.”