Noise by-law enforcement in a U.S. town

Noise and nuisance laws are enforced differently in various jurisdictions. The following letter was issued in October 2005 and is an example of enforcement by the Board of Health in the Town of Halifax, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, USA:

To: G. and S. D.

RE: Dirt bike activities experienced as a nuisance

Dear Mr. And Mrs. D.,

I am writing in response to a complaint from a concerned citizen mainly regarding the noise from the use of dirt bikes in your back yard. There also is some complaint about occasional odors from gasoline as the dirt bikes approach the property line.

In response to the call, I visited the site and confirmed the proximity of the dirt bike paths to other property lines. Some of the trails are 110 feet from the house. I know from personal experience, that the sound of dirt bikes at that distance are loud enough to be considered stressful, undesirable and an interference to what would be considered normal expected use of one's own backyard. In Board of Health terminology a nuisance is an activity resulting in or causing such things as dust, noise and/or odors that are a nuisance to people. The Board of Health law governing this topic is broad in meaning and does not measure the decibel threshold of acceptable noise. I have determined from a site visit that the dirt bike paths in your back yard are too close (less than 110 feet from house to dirt bike path) to other yards for this to be an acceptable activity.

A Board of Health is required to examine all nuisances according to MGL c. 111§ 122.c.

When alleged nuisances are confirmed, a Board of Health is required to issue orders to the owner or occupant of any private premise, to remove any nuisance(s) within 24 hours or within such other time as the board considers reasonable. The owner can be fined up to $1,000.00 for each day he knowingly violates such orders (MGL c. 111§ 123).

Should you be aggrieved by these orders you are entitled to a hearing before the Board of Health on these matters. A request for a hearing must be received in writing within seven (7) days of the receipt of this order. At said hearing, you will be given an opportunity to be heard and to present witnesses and documentary evidence as to why this order should be modified or withdrawn. You may be represented by an attorney. Please also be informed that you have the right to inspect and obtain copies of all relevant inspection or investigation reports, orders, notices and other documentary information in the possession of the Board of Health and that any adverse party has a right to be present at the hearing.

Please be advised that the Board of Health may seek fines for failure to comply with this order that may, upon conviction, result in fines of not less than $200 but not more than $1,000, according to Chapter 111: Section 31. Each day's failure to comply with the provisions of this health regulation shall constitute a separate violation. If there is evidence of noncompliance, the Board of Health also has the right, according to Halifax by-laws, to issue a 21 D ticket for up to three hundred ($300) dollars per day and will be handled by the court, as is a traffic ticket.

Respectfully,

Health Agent,
Board of Health.

Woman arrested for blasting rock music

TOKYO (AP) - Japanese police arrested a 58-year-old woman for triggering insomnia and headaches in her next door neighbour by blasting rock music at her almost continuously for over two years. Miyoko Kawahara was arrested on suspicion of inflicting injury on the 64-year-old woman by playing loud, fast-paced dance music almost 24 hours a day on a portable stereo she had pointed at her neighbour's house 20 feet away.

Police launched their investigation after doctors diagnosed the neighbour with insomnia and headaches they attributed to the noise, a local police spokesman said on condition of anonymity. The police said Kawahara started blasting the sounds in November 2002. The police haven't pinpointed a motive for the alleged prolonged harassment, but the spokesman said the two women had spats over minor issues he declined to identify. Under Japanese law, those convicted of inflicting injury on another person face up to 10 years in prison or a fine of up to $2,800.

In the flood of noise, we've got to be presumptuous to make a ripple. (Jarrett Walker)


Right to Quiet Society Newsletter, Winter 2006
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