Thursday, January 31, 2013

Local Noise Ordinances

The Pearl River Valley Water Supply District

The District has an interesting noise ordinance.  Part 204 Chapter 8 of the District Regulations is entitled "Excessive Noise Prohibited."  Rule 8.1, in extremely general terms, makes it unlawful to "cause any noise which creates a disturbance of the public peace and welfare or is a public nuisance."  To be honest, that could be anything to anybody.  In City of Clinton v. Welch, 888 So. 2d 416 (Miss. 2004), the Mississippi Supreme Court stated city ordinances are impermissibly vague when they "fail to provide persons of ordinary intelligence a reasonable opportunity to understand what conduct [is prohibited]".  In Nichols v. City of Gulfport, 589 So. 2d 1280 (Miss. 1991), a municipal noise ordinance was struck down by the Mississippi Supreme Court because it outlawed "unusual or unnecessary noises."  The noise ordinance declared void in Nichols is substantially similar to Rule 8.1 of the District's Regulations.  As a result, it is my opinion it will be difficult to issue a successful citation under this subsection.

Rule 8.2 is far more specific.  This rule makes it unlawful to use any "loudspeaker or amplifying device . . . outside of any building or structure" within the District.  The General Manager of the District may grant a temporary permit for purposes where a public benefit would be derived.

Rule 8.3 is specific to radios, televisions, "phonograph[s and] tape deck[s]" and other sound systems or musical instruments.  These items cannot be played in a manner which would disturb "the quiet, comfort, repose of persons in any office or dwelling."  

Rule 8.4 levies the penalties for a violation of the noise ordinance at a fine of not more than $100.  

The City of Flowood

The City of Flowood's Noise Ordinance is more specific, and will likely stand up to constitutional challenge.  It lists standards to be used in determining whether a sound "disturbs the peace and quiet" or "causes discomfort or annoyance to any reasonable person of normal sensitivity", i.e.:  

     -  Ambient Sound level
     -  Population density
     -  The zoning area from which the sound emanates
     -  The proximity of the sound
     -  The time of day
     -  Duration

Section 4 identifies specific objectionable sounds, like Jake Brakes, spinning tires, unmuffled engines, yelling or "singing" between the hours of 9 p.m. and 7 a.m. in residential areas, or playing musical instruments between those time periods.

Section 5 of the City's ordinance identifies certain exemptions, including church bells, school marching bands and athletic events, emergency work, City activities, and aircraft.

Section 6 provides for a Special Condition Permit, and further provides for the manner in which to obtain one.

Flowood takes a much more dim view than the District of noise making hooligans.  Fines can be up to $1,000.00 and/or 90 days in jail.  As a result, best not let your neighbor hear any singing in the shower before 7 a.m.

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