Volunteer for Noise Bylaw Committee

Above: The Town is seeking volunteers for another new ad hoc committee. (image right cropped from public domain graphic by Karen Arnold)

Selectmen are seeking five residents “at-large” to volunteer to help draft a “Noise Bylaw”. The hope is to have a proposal for Town Meeting to vote on this fall or by next spring at the latest.

If you are interested in volunteering, apply soon. The Board of Selectmen plans to interview volunteers for the ad hoc committee at their meeting on the evening of Tuesday, July 13th.

For readers unfamiliar with the Noise Bylaw, the Town’s announcement doesn’t define what it is, but the impetus for the committee set a clear context.

At May’s Annual Town Meeting, residents made clear they want a bylaw to regulate excessive noises, especially late at night/early in the morning. Currently, the Southborough Police Department doesn’t have any regulations to enforce when residents complain.

Before voting down a Citizen’s Petition Article proposing a new bylaw, several commenters made clear that they wanted the Town to come up with a version they could support. Town officials indicated agreement with voters who asked selectmen to form a committee to create one.

Last week, Selectmen approved a charge for the committee. It allowed for their hope that the committee can complete their work in time for a Special Town Meeting in the Fall. However, the Board acknowledged that may be overly optimistic. The backup deadline is in time for the 2022 Annual Town Meeting.

To include an Article for either meeting, the committee will need to present its draft 30 days prior to the Warrant being printed. (For 2022, that would likely mean a draft by early February. For the Fall, the date is still TBD.) The intent is to allow time for advance public discussion/hearings and potential revisions.

The committee’s charge outlines the process selectmen want members to follow. That includes reviewing bylaws from other Towns and reporting out versions/options that members reviewed and rejected before settling on a final draft. Members are asked to consider the enforceability of a proposed bylaw, as well as flexibility for residents and companies. You can view the full charge here.

In addition to five residents, the committee will include two ex officio members to advise: the Police Chief and a designee of the Board of Health. 

Chief Kenneth Paulhus had previously asked the Board to approve a Noise Bylaw. However, at last Town Meeting, Paulhus advised against passing the Citizen’s Petition Article. He voiced concern that as written it would be problematic to enforce and confusing for residents.

At recent Board of Selectmen meetings, Chelsea Malinowski (the BOS Vice Chair and member of BOH) stated that the BOH is responsible enforcing noise issues. At a public meeting last spring, Public Health Director Heather Alker stated that long lasting loud noises, especially with accompanying vibrations, can have harmful health impacts on residents.*

To apply to serve, fill out the online Citizen Activity Form and check the box for the Noise Bylaw Ad Hoc Committee.

*Dr. Alker spoke during an April Zoning Board of Appeals hearing on a permit request by Ken’s Foods to expand their building. She said the Board of Health had received complaints about noises generated at the facility, and the night time impacts on residents. At that time, the BOH planned to follow up on the matter, working with the company and residents.

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