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Loud noise not just irksome: It's illegal, council decides

Now the city's police department can do something if your neighbor's dog barks all night.

The New Port Richey City Council approved an ordinance Tuesday night that makes in unlawful to make any "loud or raucous noise" that "endangers the comfort, health, peace or safety of reasonable persons of ordinary sensibilities."

Violation could bring a fine of $25 for the first offense in a six-month period, $100 for the second offense in six months and $500 for the third.

The ordinance is broad and leaves a lot up to the discretion of police officers.

That bothered several residents who spoke in favor of the ordinance but asked that provisions be added to objectively measure the sound level, such as specific decibel readings that would determine a violation.

Several council members asked about whether specific things would be covered by the ordinance. Council member Ted Thomas worried that ice cream trucks would be banned because of it. Council member Heather Fiorentino asked about mowing lawns on Sundays.

They were told that they would be banned only if a reasonable person would think the noises were annoying.

Council members said the ordinance is a flexible document and can be amended later if necessary.

"This is the first step," council member Bill Phillips said. "I think eventually we will get to the decibel meters. . . . This is not a cure-all. I don't like everything in it but I think that it is a step forward."

The ordinance bans some particularly noisy activities, such as construction, between 9 p.m. and 7 a.m.

But some loud noises that still would be okay any time under the ordinance include:

Cries for emergency assistance or warning calls.

Radios, sirens, horns and bells on police, fire and other emergency vehicles.

Parades and fireworks, permitted by the city.

Authorized school activities, such as football games.

Fire alarms and burglar alarms.

Religious worship activities, including bells and organs.

Trains and aircraft.