What exactly are government officials in Johnstown afraid of when it comes to a proposed noise ordinance?
Are they afraid that people who shoot off fireworks in the middle of the night or ride their motorcycles up and down residential streets or who blare their music at all hours might be offended?
Are they afraid of bar owners getting upset when their neighbors call to complain about loud music and crowds?
Maybe they don’t want to upset construction crews and tree removal companies and people who mow their lawns at 6 in the morning. Or people who allow their dogs to bark all night.
Exactly whose freedoms and rights are they worried about depriving by setting reasonable limits on when people can disturb their neighbors and how much noise people are allowed to make at certain times of the day or night?
Town officials are tepidly exploring the possibility of creating some kind of noise control law for the rural town.
But to hear some officials talk about it, it’s like they’re planning to tear the Bill of Rights out of the Constitution.
Many communities, rural and urban, have some kind of noise ordinance in place so residents who are disturbed by loud noises have some kind of recourse.
These ordinances routinely set parameters for when and where people can make loud noises and when and where they can’t. They also often set decibel limits based on how loud the noise carries off the offender’s property.
Someone with a lot of acreage might be able to operate a chainsaw with no noise impact on neighbors, while a leaf blower operated in a residential area could create more of a disturbance.
A bar with live music or a deejay operating with its doors open at 1 a.m. is less likely to get complaints if it’s located off the highway than downtown.
With an ordinance in place that sets specific, measurable limits, communities gain a legal basis on which to deter loud behavior and take action against people who infringe others’ rights.
Even with a law, people would still be free to make noise — just not
all the time
as loud as they want
. The only rights a noise ordinance deprives someone of is the right to indiscriminately bother people.
What about protecting the rights of people to live in peace? What about the rights of people who have to get up and go to work in the morning? What about the rights of the elderly? Or veterans who suffer from PTSD? Or people who have pets? Don’t
also have rights?
It’s not up to us to decide whether Johnstown wants or needs a noise ordinance or to say what limits they might set. That’s up to the community and its elected officials.
But it would be irresponsible of town officials not to move forward with such a law out of fear of offending the offenders.