Judging by the first public hearing, most Saugerties residents are not interested in the town setting hard and fast noise limits.
About 50 attended the hearing at the Senior Center on Aug. 13. The proposed noise ordinance would cap acceptable noise levels at 72 dB from 7 a.m.–10 p.m. and 66 dB from 10 p.m.–7 a.m. Residents could apply for a variance if for any reason they expect to violate those limits. Violating the stated decibel level without permission would result in a “fine not to exceed $250 or by imprisonment for up to fifteen days for each offense or violation or by both,” according to the proposed ordinance.
Many residents said the issue was liberty.
“We don’t need more government in our lives, we need less,” said James Ransom of Cherry Ln., giving voice to a sentiment expressed by many others that evening.
“I value this community, but most of all, I value my family and their personal freedom,” said Angie Minew, also of Cherry Ln. In addition to her comments, Minew presented the board with a petition opposing the law, signed by 138 residents. She was accompanied by seven of her neighbors, all of whom cited their children’s practicing on musical instruments, children’s parties, barbeques, and child day care on their block as likely violators of the law as written.
As the hearing went on, it became clear that an important driver for the board’s decision to consider a noise ordinance was a neighborhood dispute on Cherry Ln. in Barclay Heights. Minew had organized neighbors because her husband’s garage band was a frequent source of complaints from other neighbors. Warren Perce and Arlene Canonico, who also live on Cherry Ln., spoke in support of the ordinance. Each complained about noise generated by the band, which practices between 6:30–8:30 p.m.
“Why do 20,000 people need a law because two or three people are unhappy with their neighbors?” asked Samantha Diedrick.
“Neighbor disputes should be resolved by neighbors,” said Susan Weeks. “We are an area full of, and famous for, musicians. We should be encouraging musicians in town. Creative dispute resolution is needed.”
“There is a need for reason,” said Cleo Andrews of 20 Edgewood Dr. “A lot of people do consider their behavior [when asked] and they change it. A lot of people don’t. [We should] try our best to respect who we are and the people around us [but] some sort of boundary is needed so people don’t take advantage.”
Negative responses also alleged that there has been minimal training of police personnel in the use of their newly acquired decibel measuring equipment, that the diversion of officers from crime enforcement to noise enforcement was undesirable, and that the law criminalizes common activities which, by their nature, violate the proposed set of provisions.
Town officials said the input will be taken into account.
“This hearing is for the Town Board to receive and hear comments from the public,” said Supervisor Greg Helsmoortel. “By no means does the board wish to place anything into law that would cause inconvenience to the public.”