Hancock County

A ringing cellphone could violate the Bay’s new noise ordinance

The Depot District in Bay St. Louis in 2011. The City Council adopted a noise ordinance for residential and commercial areas of the city Tuesday.
The Depot District in Bay St. Louis in 2011. The City Council adopted a noise ordinance for residential and commercial areas of the city Tuesday. jcfitzhugh@sunherald.com File

After years of discussion and debate, the City Council finally passed a noise ordinance Tuesday.

The ordinance sets decibel limits at certain times for establishments in both residential and commercial zones.

The noise limit in residential zones is 65 decibels from 7:01 to 10 p.m. every day. The limit drops to 55 decibels from 10:01 p.m. to 7 a.m..

The limit in commercial zones is 85 decibels from 7:01 to 10 p.m. daily, then decreases to 75 decibels from 10:01 p.m. to 7 a.m.

A normal conversation registers about 60 decibels, and a cellphone ringer can reach up to about 105 decibels — though anything at or above 85 decibels can cause permanent hearing damage, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Councilman Joey Boudin was critical of the strict decibel limits and tried having them increased at last month’s meeting.

“That rain out there is probably at 70 (decibels),” he said at the time, referring to a flash thunderstorm that began midway through the meeting.

In fact, rainfall typically registers about 50 decibels.

The draft ordinance also deals with businesses near residential properties. Any commercial property that is in a commercial zone but within 50 feet of a residence is required to adhere to the residential-zone noise levels.

If someone makes a noise complaint, the Bay St. Louis Police Department will dispatch an officer to take decibel readings at the complainant’s property line.

Anyone who violates the ordinance will receive a verbal warning. A subsequent violation will result in a citation, which is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 or 90 days imprisonment or both.

The new law contains a number of exemptions, including the use of power tools and lawnmowers between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m.

The council has been discussing noise ordinances since 2009 without taking any real action. Residents, primarily from the Depot District, made a lot of noise a few months ago over the loud music coming from the bars and taverns, and lined up at several consecutive council meetings to complain.

The bar and tavern owners initially came to defend their businesses but with only a handful of them, they were quickly out-voiced by the complaining residents.

City attorney Trent Favre discovered in December the city had a noise ordinance on the books, but the council decided a new law was needed because the existing one was ambiguous in some areas.

Residential zones

Times > Levels

  • 7:01 to 10 p.m. — less than 65 decibels
  • 10:01 p.m. to 7 a.m.— less than 55 decibels

Industrial/Commercial Zone

Times > Levels

  • 7:01 to 10 p.m. — less than 85 decibels
  • 10:01 p.m. to 7 a.m. — less than 75 decibels
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