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The Daily Tar Heel

Town Council Passes Revised Noise Ordinance

Acceptable noise levels in residential areas are lower than before, while businesses are allowed higher levels and increased hours.

The revamped ordinance, which passed 8-1, also increases noise levels in business and industrial areas. The newly passed ordinance states that noise in a residential area cannot exceed 50 decibels during the day and 45 at night. Previously the ordinance mandated 60 decibels during the day and 50 at night.

Business areas were restricted to 60 decibels during the day and 50 at night. But now these areas can reach 65 decibels in commercial areas and 70 decibels in industrial areas during the day. At night, these areas can reach 55 decibels in commercial areas and 65 in industrial areas.

Residents trying to obtain an exemption from the new levels for the ordinance will have to pay $50 as opposed to the previous $20, and they will need to apply seven days in advance.

Also, residents must give their neighbors at least 72 hours notice of an event, and permits for Thursday will no longer be issued. The ban on Thursday night permits received praise from Town Council member Flicka Bateman. "I would hope that students are studying on Thursday nights," Bateman said. "It's reasonable to protect people from invasive noise after hours."

The ordinance also affects the business side of Chapel Hill. Sanitation workers now can start collecting waste at 5:30 a.m. as opposed to a previous 7 a.m. starting time.

But Marc Labranche, a Coker Hills resident, referred to Chapel Hill as a "slice of heaven," and voiced concern at the meeting about the early hour of garbage collection.

"I'm not sure if there are trash dumpsters in heaven, but if there are I bet they'd be emptied at reasonable hours," he said.

Police Chief Gregg Jarvies pushed for approval of the ordinance but advised against implementing the ordinance retroactively, which would force residents and businesses to update existing equipment to meet the new standards.

Town Council member Joyce Brown sought immediate approval of the ordinance, anticipating the town's passage of UNC's Development Plan, the University's eight-year plan for growth. "(We should) make the new noise ordinance effective before the Development Plan is approved," she said.

But council member Edith Wiggins said she thinks the town should hear from the University before approving an ordinance that could possibly jeopardize the town's relationship with UNC.

Town Council member Pat Evans cast the only dissenting vote. Evans said the University should play a larger role in revising the ordinance and wanted some specific measures clarified.

But the revised ordinance passed despite Evans' opposition.

"I think that this is a reasonable ordinance," Bateman said.

"It spells out to others what our expectations are."

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