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Council to consider noise ordinance override after mayor’s veto

GREENFIELD — The noise ordinance passed by Town Council is going to need one more vote by the council if it is to overturn the mayor’s veto.

Shortly after the council voted 8-3 to pass the ordinance in June, Mayor William Martin issued his veto, saying he did not approve of the ordinance’s enactment because it is too broad.

The council will consider an override on Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the studio in Greenfield Community Television, 393 Main St.

“I do not take a veto of legislation action lightly,” Martin told councilors.

Martin said that though he understands excessive noise may cause damage to humans in numerous ways, the town has no documentation of local situations where noise has been the cause of sleep deprivation, anxiety, stress, aggressive behavior, hearing loss or health or safety issues.

He said during his five years serving as mayor, noise complaints have always been made to police, the town’s health and building inspectors or to the mayor.

The new ordinance forbids anyone from creating “plainly audible” sound, including music, yelling, shouting, hooting, whistling and singing within 50 feet of others between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m. It also forbids anyone from using a power saw, drill, grinder, lawn mower, leaf blower, lawn or garden tool or similar tool during that time Monday through Saturday and from 9 p.m. to 9 a.m. on Sunday.

“To date, over the last five years, noise complaints are few — and most are investigated by police,” he said. “There are no past-reported situations that could have been prevented by this ordinance.”

Martin said currently police respond to noise complaints using the Disturbing the Peace laws of the state. The mayor said noise issues in Greenfield seem to be localized to neighborhoods, not throughout the entire town.

“As stated, the purpose of the Excessive Noise Ordinance is to ‘reduce the ambient noise level of the city to safe and reasonable levels’ and to ‘eliminate the episodic creation’ of noise,” said Martin.

“That would be us, as we are in our safe and reasonable environment enjoying our quality of life. The episodic creation of noise is life.”

Martin said the findings of the ordinance do not support the purpose, because the ordinance will not prevent a skateboarder from skating along a sidewalk or stop a horn from honking or stop someone from yelling loudly.

“Legislation cannot modify behavior in itself,” he said. “There needs to be a greater motivator.”

Martin said the local government should not intrude on people’s lives, and said a noise ordinance would only tend to divide and isolate people and neighbors.

Greenfield Police Chief Robert Haigh has expressed his concerns about the ordinance spawning calls, but not necessarily for noise that would prove to be unreasonable.

Haigh said the ordinance, which uses a subjective measurement of noise, not an actual measurement of decibels, is too broad and would be difficult to enforce because it has the potential to be interpreted many different ways by many different people.

The mayor has agreed and added that it is also too vague .

“It is subject to multiple interpretations,” said Martin. “The language is too general. What would happen if Kennametal made too much noise near the hospital or setup crews made too much noise on Beacon Field the night before the fireworks? Those instances could be subject to the ordinance.

“I believe when neighbors communicate and people are considerate, less government is best,” said Martin.

An override of the mayor’s veto will need the votes of nine of the 13 councilors.

In the last vote, Precinct 3 Councilor Brickett Allis, Precinct 4 Councilor Steven Ronhave and Precinct 7 Councilor and Vice President Karen “Rudy” Renaud voted against the noise ordinance.

Allis said he is concerned that the ordinance will prevent residents from having one-time graduation or other types of parties if a neighbor doesn’t like the noise.

If the three don’t change their minds, it appears they will be joined by the newest members of the council, Precinct 5 Councilor Penny Ricketts and At-large Councilor Isaac Mass, who have both said they will vote to sustain the mayor’s veto.

“There’s a lot more work that needs to be done on that ordinance,” said Ricketts in June, after she was elected to the seat but before she took it on July 1.

If all five vote to sustain Martin’s veto, the council will only have seven “yes” votes — the president typically votes only when there is a tie.

Even if President Hillary Hoffman — who was one of the authors of the ordinance — votes and there are five votes to sustain, it won’t be enough for the council to overturn the veto.

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