by Christen Gowan

Times Union

December 17, 2009

BETHLEHEM — If you’re going to use that leaf blower in town after hours, you’d better have a permit.

The Town Board will likely approve a new noise ordinance next week that will penalize residents causing a loud commotion between 8 p.m. and 7 a.m. The local law was born out of a committee of residents and town officials.

“It is reflective of the ordinance that we put forward in many areas,” said Sam Messina, a board member who will be sworn in as supervisor on Jan. 1. Messina worked on the noise ordinance committee, and used the ordinance as part of his campaign.

“We can make changes, but I just don’t want to leave any major gaps in what the public expects us to do,” Messina said.

Current Town Supervisor Jack Cunningham said the law originated to help the police department control late-night commotion.

“This is not a local law to end noise in the town of Bethlehem, but to provide law enforcement with the tools that they need to remedy that situation,” he said.

A second public hearing on the issue will be held Wednesday, and the board is expected to vote on the new law.

Times vary on when particular noises are prohibited, but residents must refrain from using lawn mowers, leaf blowers and other power tools from 8 p.m. to 7 a.m. Construction noise is halted from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., and all other noise, such as barking dogs and car engines revving will be regulated from 11 p.m. to 7 a.m. The local law does not restrict farming, firearms and aircraft.

Local dairy farmer Chuck Preska said he had reservations about the initial ordinance’s wording of “reasonable” noise, which, Preska said, should be worded “normal noise.”

Preska said he has the average noises at his farm on Van Dyck Road. For example, he said he sometimes he has to hay his fields late at night if rain is forecast for the next day.

He’s worried others would use the noise ordinance against his normal farming noise.

“Is it a really necessary ordinance?” Preska asked. “My own feeling living in town for all my life is that I don’t notice bad noise.”

Cunningham said the board will consider revisions to the law in the future if a need arises.

“This is a starting point,” the supervisor said. “If it doesn’t work for the community, we can go back and adjust it.”

Residents violating the noise ordinance can apply for a special permit from the Zoning Board of Appeals to avoid a fine, which starts at $50.

“Virtually any community of any size has a noise ordinance now,” said Ted Rueter, a spokesperson for Noise Free America, an Albany-based organization fighting against noise pollution.

“People care about noise and their neighborhoods,” Rueter said. “It’s incredibly frustrating when you can’t experience peace and quiet on your own.”

Christen Gowan can be reached at 454-5350 or by e-mail at [email protected].