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"Good Neighbors Keep Their Noise to Themselves"

Westerly, RI Noise Ordinance
(NPC posted this March 2004)

ADV: MAY 20, 1991
CHG: T. C.#0101-101-50201




The Town of Westerly hereby ordains:

Chapter 19 of the Westerly Code of Ordinances entitled "Offenses and Miscellaneous Provisions" is hereby amended by adding the following article entitled "Noise".


The Town Council finds and declares that:

Sec. 1-1. Excessive noise is a serious hazard to the public health and welfare and quality of life in the town;

Sec. 1-2. Each person has a right to an environment reasonably free from noise which jeopardizes health or welfare or unnecessarily degrades the quality of life.


Sec. 2-1. The purpose of this article is to establish standards for the control of noise pollution in the town by setting maximum permissible sound levels for various activities, to protect the public health, safety and general welfare;

Sec. 2-2. This article may be cited as the "Noise Control Ordinance of the Town of Westerly."


Unless otherwise expressly stated or the context clearly indicates a different intention, the following terms shall have the meanings shown. Definitions of technical terms used shall be obtained from publications of acoustical terminology used by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) or its succesor body.

A-scale (dBA) means the sound level in decibels measured using the A-weighted network as specified in ANSI 1-4-1971 for sound level meters. The level is designated dB (A) of dBA.

Decibel (dB) means a logarithmic and dimensionless unit of measure often used in describing the amplitude of sound, equal to twenty (20) times the logarithm to the base 10 of the ratio of the pressure of the sound measured to the reference pressure, which is twenty (20) micropascals (twenty (20) micronewtons per square meter).

Emergency work means work made necessary to restore property to a safe condition following a public calamity, work to restore public utilities, or work required to protect persons or property from imminent exposure to danger.

Lot means any area, a tract or parcel of land owned by or under the lawful control of one (1) distinct ownership. Abutting "platted lots" under the same ownership shall be considered a "lot." The lot line or boundary is an imaginary line at ground level which separates a lot and its vertical extension owned by one (1) person from that owned by another.

Motorcycle means any motor vehicle having a saddle, or seat for the use of the rider and designed to travel on not more than three (3) wheels in contact with the ground. The terms shall include motorized bicycles and motor scooters.

Motor vehicle means any motor-operated vehicle licensed for use on the public highways.

Noise disturbance means any sound which:

(1) Exceeds the dBA level for such sound set out in this chapter;

(2) Injures or endangers the safety or health of humans;

(3) Annoys, disturbs or endangers the comfort, repose, peace or safety of a reasonable person of normal sensitivities;

(4) Endangers or injures personal or real property.

Noise sensitive area means any area used for the operation of schools, churches, hospitals and nursing homes or any area designated by the Town Council as a noise sensitive area and posted with noise sensitive signs.

Off-road recreational vehicle means any motor vehicle, including road vehicles but excepting watercraft used off public roads for recreational purposes.

Person means any individual, association, partnership or corporation, including any officer, department, bureau, agency or instrumentality of the United States, a state or any political subdivision of that state, including the Town.

Plainly audible (sound) means any sound for which the information content of that sound is unambiguously communicated to the listener; such as, but not limited to, understandable spoken speech, comprehension of whether a voice is raised or normal, or comprehensible musical rhythms.

Powered model vehicle means any self-propelled airborne, waterborne, or landborne model plane, vessel, or vehicle, which is not designed to carry persons including, but not limited to, any model airplane, boat, car or rocket.

Public right-of-way means any street, avenue, highway, boulevard, alley, easement or public space which is owned by or controlled by a public government entity.

Public space means any real property, including any structure thereon, which is owned or controlled by a governmental entity.

Pure tone means any sound which can be distinctly heard as a single pitch or set of single pitches.

Real Property boundary means an imaginary line along the ground surface, and its vertical extension, which separates the real property owned by one (1) person from that owned by another person, but not including intra-building real property divisions.

Receiving land use means for the purpose of this article, the use of occupancy of the property which receives the transmission of sound as defined in this section.

Residential means any property on which is located a building or structure used wholly or partially for living or sleeping purposes.

Sound means an oscillation in pressure, particle displacement, particle velocity or other physical parameter in a medium with internal forces that cause compression and rarefaction of that medium. The description of sound may include any characteristic of such sound, including duration, intensity and frequency.

Sound level means the weighted sound pressure level obtained by the use of a sound level meter and frequency weighting network such as A, B, or C as specified in American National Standards Institute specifications for sound level meters (ANSI S1. 4-1971, or the latest approved revision thereof). If the frequency weighting employed is not indicated, the A-weighing shall apply.

Sound level meter means an instrument which includes a microphone, amplifier, RMS detector, intergrator or time average, output or display meter, and weighting networks used to measure sound pressure levels, which complies with American National Standards Institute Standard 1.4-1971.

Zoning districts shall mean those districts established by and defined in the Westerly Code of Ordinances.


Sec. 4-1. Noise Disturbances Prohibited.

No person shall make, continue to be made or continued, except as permitted, any noise disturbance as defined in this Ordinance, or any noise in excess of the Sound Level limit for such noise established in this Ordinance.

Sec. 4-2. Specific Prohibitions.

The following acts, and the causing thereof, are declared to be in violation of this Ordinance.

Sec. 4-3. Radios, television sets, musical instruments and similar devices.

No person shall operate, play or permit the operation or playing of any radio, television, phonograph, drum, musical instrument, sound amplifier, or similar device, or by any combination of the same, which produces, reproduces or amplified sound:

a)in such a manner as to create a noise disturbance across a real property boundary or within a noise sensitive area;

b)In such a manner as to create a noise disturbance at 50 feet from such device, when operated in or on a motor vehicle on a public right-of-way or space, or in a boat on public waters;

c)In such a manner as to create a noise disturbance to any person other than the operator of the devise when operated by any person on either a common carrier, public beach, park, playground or other public recreational area.

Sec. 4-4. Yelling or Shouting.

No person or combination of persons shall, for continued duration, yell, shout, whistle, or make other sounds which create a noise disturbance across a real property boundary, or any public street or within a noise sensitive area.

Sec. 4-5. Animals and Birds.

No person shall own, posess or harbor any animal or animals, bird or birds which frequently or for continued duration, howls, barks, meows, squeaks, or makes other sounds which create a noise disturbance across a real property boundary or within a noise sensitive area.

Sec. 4-6. Loading and Unloading.

No person shall so load, unload, open, close or handle crates, containers, garbage cans and dumpsters, building materials, or similar objects outdoors between the hours of 9:00 p.m. and 6:30 a.m. the following morning so as to create a noise disturbance across a real property boundary or within a noise sensitive area.

Sec. 4-7. Vehicle or motorboat repairs and testing.

No person shall repair, rebuild, modify, or test any motor vehicle, motorcycle, or motorboat in such a manner as to cause a noise disturbance across a real property boundary or outdoors within a noise sensitive area.

Sec. 4-8. Construction and Manufacturing.

(a) No person shall operate or permit the operation of any tools or equipment in construction, drilling, blasting, mining, manufacturing or demolition work, or in preventive maintenance work for public service utilities between the hours of 9:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. the following day or at any time on Sundays or holidays, in any manner which creates a noise disturbance across a real property boundary or within a noise sensitive area.

(b) The terms of this section shall not apply to:

(1) Emergency work or repair work performed by or for governmental entities or public service utilities, for public safety and welfare;

Sec. 4-9. Emergency signaling devices.

(a) No person shall operate or permit the intentional sounding outdoors of any fire, burglar or civil defense alarm, siren, whistle, or similar stationary emergency signaling device, except for emergency purposes or for testing, as provided in subsection (b) below.

(b) Testing of a stationary emergengy signaling device shall occur at the same time of day each time the test is performed, but not before 8:00 a.m. or after 9:00 p.m. Any such testing shall use only the minimum cycle test time. In no case shall the test time exceed sixty (60) seconds.

Sec. 4-10. Motor Boats, Jet Skis and Similiar Devices.

No person shall operate or permit the operation of any motorboat, jet ski or other similiar device in any lake, river, stream, or other waterway in such a manner so as to cause a noise disturbance and/or as to exceed a sound level of 50 dBA at 100 feet or the nearest shoreline, whichever is less.

Sec. 4-11. Noise Sensitive Zones.

No person alone or in concert with others, shall create or cause the creation of any sound within any noise sensitive area so as to disrupt or interfere with the functions and/or activities normally conducted within the area or to disturb or annoy any person or persons within said area.

Sec. 4-12. Domestic Power Tools.

No person shall operate or permit the operation of any saw, drill, sander, grinder, lawn or garden tool, lawn mower, or similar device used outdoors in residential areas between the hours of 9:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m. the following day so as to cause a noise disturbance across a residential real property boundary.


SEC. 5-1.

The provisions of this ordinance, including the provisions of Section 6, shall not apply to:

a) The emission of sound for the purpose of alerting persons to the existence of an emergency;

b) The emission of sound in the performance of emergency;

c) The un-amplified human voice except for those activities controlled by Section 4-4.

d) The emission of sound in the discharge of weapons or in fireworks displays licensed by the Town from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.;

e) The emission of sound in the operation of snow-removal equipment at any time provided that such equipment shall be maintained in good repair so as to minimize noise. Noise discharged from exhausts shall be adequately muffled so as to prevent loud and/or explosive sounds being emitted therefrom;

f) The emission of sound relative to permitted construction and demolition activities; provided such activity does not occur between the hours of 9:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m.;

g) The emission of sound in a residential area made in the course of the maintenance of a dwelling and/or property from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.;

h) Lawn care and grounds maintenance equipment in normal daytime usage if used and maintained in accordance with the manufacturer's specifications.

i) Parades or processions for which a parade permit has been issued, provided the conditions of the permit are complied with;

j) Athletic Events. Any athletic event or recreational activity which is conducted and sponsored or funded in part by any elementary or secondary school, or the Town of Westerly, on property owned and controlled by the Town of Westerly;

k) Band Concerts or music provided, sponsored or funded, in whole or in part by the Town of Westerly or by any entity qualifying for tax exempt status under Sec. 501 (c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code, on property owned and controlled by the Town of Westerly or in Wilcox Park for which a valid permit has been obtained.

l) Church or clock carillons, bells or chimes.

Sec. 5-2. Airport and Aircraft Operations.

Nothing in this ordinance shall be construed to prohibit, restrict, penalize, or in any manner regulate the movement of aircraft which are in all respects conducted in accordance with, or pursuant to, applicable federal laws or regulations.

Sec. 5-3. Construction.

Notwithstanding any other provision of this ordinance, between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. daily, except on Sundays and holidays, when the exemption herein shall apply between 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m., construction, alteration, or repair activities that are authorized by a valid town building permit shall be allowed.


Sec. 6-1. Maximum Permissible Sound Levels by Receiving Land Use.

With the exception of sound levels elsewhere specifically authorized or allowed in this ordinance no person shall operate or cause to be operated, make, continue or cause to be made or continued any noise or source of sound as to create a sound level which exceeds the limits set forth for the receiving land use category in Table 1 when measured at or within the property boundary of the receiving land use.


Zoning Category of Receiving Land Use TIME Sound Level Limit, dBA

Residential - R-1 - R-2 8:00 AM to 10:00 PM 60
R-40 - R-30
R-43WH, R-15,
R-6 10:00 PM to 8:00 AM 50
Waterfront W-1
Business - (B1 - B2) 8:00 AM to 10:00 PM 65
Professional- (P1) 10:00 PM to 8:00 AM 55
Manufacturing - (M1-M2) 8:00 AM to 10:00 PM 70
Agriculture - (A1) 10:00 PM to 8:00 AM 60

Sec. 6-2. Correction for character of sound.

For any source of sound which emits a pure tone, the maximum sound level limits set forth in subsection (a) shall be reduced by 5 dBA.

Sec. 6-3. Measurement of Sound.

a) Decibel measurements shall be made with a sound level meter, which shall be an instrument in good operating condition, meeting the requirements of Type I or Type II meter, as specified by ANSI standard 1.4-1971. For purposes of this title, a sound level meter shall contain A-weighted scale, and both fast and slow meter response capability.

b) If the measurements are made with other instruments, the procedure shall be carried out in such a manner that the overall accuracy is at least that called for in A.N.S.I. Standard 1.4-1971 for Type II instruments.

c) When the location or distance prescribed in this chapter for measurement of sound in impractical or would provide misleading or inaccurate results, measurements may be taken at other locations or distances using appropriate correction factors specified in this chapter.

d) Procedures and tests required by this chapter and not specified herein shall be placed on file with the Town Clerk.


Sec. 7-1. Motor Vehicle Maximum Sound Levels.

No person shall operate or cause to be operated a public or private motor vehicle or motorcycle on a public right-of-way at any time in such a manner so as to create a noise disturbance.

Sec. 7-2. Adequate Mufflers or Sound Dissipative Devices.

a) No person shall operate or cause to be operated any motor vehicle or motorcycle not equipped with a muffler or sound dissipative device in good working order and in constant operation;

b) No person shall remove or render inoperative, or cause to be removed or rendered inoperative, other than for purposes of maintenance, repair, or replacement, any muffler or sound dissipative device on a motor vehicle or motorcycle.

Sec. 7-3. Motor Vehicle Horns and Signaling Devices.

The following acts and the causing thereof are declared to be in violation of this ordinance:

a) The sounding of any horn or other auditory signaling device on or in any motor vehicle on any public right-of-way or public space, except as a warning of danger or as provided in the vehicle code.

b) The sounding of any horn or other auditory signaling device so as to create or cause a noise disturbance.


Any person who shall violate any provision of this ordinance shall, upon conviction thereof, be punished for each violation by a fine of not more than five hundred ($500.00) or by imprisonment for not more than thirty (30) days or both. The continuation of a violation of any provision of this chapter shall constitute, for each day the violation is continued, a separate and distinct violation hereunder.

SECTION 9. All ordinances or parts of ordinances inconsistent with this ordinance are hereby repealed.

SECTION 10. This ordinance shall take effect upon passage.

A true copy of an Ordinance passed May 13, 1991.

Per Order of the Town Council.

 COUNCIL CLERK           

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