City Council to Hold ‘Unreasonable and Excessive Noise’ Hearing Aug. 29

As noise issues continue to plague neighborhoods across the city from increased construction to trash trucks, the City Council Committee on Environment, Sustainability, and Parks is holding a hearing on Aug. 29 at 2:30 p.m. regarding “unreasonable and excessive noise” to discuss what some solutions might be.

The hearing order was filed by City Councilor At-Large Althea Garrison, who said in a prepared statement that she has heard “numerous complaints” from residents across the city about excessive noise. The hearing would cover any kind of noise, whether it be from construction, loud music, festivals, and both city permitted and non-permitted gatherings, she said.

“I would have filed this as an ordinance to perhaps amend the Boston Municipal Code standards for noise in the city, but I thought that it would be more appropriate to file an order for a hearing to collaborate with our panelists and the general public to find the best way forward on this important issue, which is why we are here today,” Garrison said in her statement.“Studies have shown that unreasonable and excessive noise is a substantial danger to the health, welfare, safety and quality of life of the public and that this kind of noise over an extended period of time can lead to hearing loss, disrupt personal communication, cause sleep disturbances and create anxiety among residents.”

According to Mark Murphy, Garrison’s Chief of Staff, panelists at the hearing will include Commissioner of the Environment Department Carl Spector, along with several others who he said are still being confirmed. Erica Walker, a post-doctoral researcher at Boston University School of Public Health, will also be in attendance, as Murphy said she has studied noise issues in the city for 10 years. She founded an organization called Noise and the City, and was able to release a noise report for the Greater Boston area for the first time since the 1970s.

Several community members have also expressed their frustration with noise in their neighborhoods, and it is likely that some of these issues will be discussed at the hearing. Martyn Roetter, Chair of the Neighborhood Association of the Back Bay (NABB), said that some of the issues affecting Back Bay residents include motorcycles and some cars with illegal pipes that ignore the speed limit, prolonged construction work on buildings which he said is sometimes done outside normal hours, noise from digging up roads and sidewalks by utility companies, early noise from the new trash pickup schedules, and “loud (and pointless) use of vehicle horns at regularly congested intersections (e.g. Berkeley/Beacon) when drivers enter and block the crossings so when the traffic lights change no one can move,” he said.

Additionally, he said, that “there is a broader concern about noise issues from decks on buildings with non-conforming uses in the residential district. Lack of enforcement of existing noise rule seems to be the challenge, more so than that the rules themselves necessarily need changing.”

“Another point that someone has made to me falls under the contentious question o the impact of [Short Term Rentals] or Airbnbs,.” Roetter said. “A frequent flow of short-term renters trundling along with wheelies arriving at all hours of the day or night is another source of annoyance.”

“As elected officials of the Boston City Council we have an obligation to protect the public health, safety and peace and quiet of our residents, and so I look forward to this conversation today to find real ways to reduce unreasonable and excessive noise levels in our City and to work for safer and more reasonable levels throughout Boston,” Garrison said in her statement, which will be read at the beginning of Thursday’s hearing.

The public is invited to testify at this hearing, and more information can be found on the hearing order page of the City of Boston’s website.

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