City of Melrose, MA
Middlesex County
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents
[HISTORY: Adopted by the Board of Aldermen of the City of Melrose 5-20-1996 by Ord. No. 96-193. Amendments noted where applicable.]
This chapter is intended to prohibit preventable and unnecessary noise and is not intended, nor shall it be construed, to regulate the usual and customary noise incidental to urban life.
This chapter may be applied to business and industrial establishments, but when so applied to establishments properly located in business or industrial zones, due consideration shall be given to the zone in which the establishment is located, and the customary and natural noise incident to the operation of businesses or industries permitted in the area zoned shall be considered so as not to work an undue hardship upon lawful business and industrial establishments.
It shall be unlawful for any person to make, continue or cause to be made or continued any loud, unnecessary or unusual noise or any noise which either annoys, disturbs, injures or endangers the comfort, repose, health, peace or safety of others within the limits of the City.
A noise disturbance shall be defined as any sound which:
May cause temporary or permanent hearing loss in persons exposed.
Is injurious to public health.
Causes a nuisance which is prohibited by law.
Is defined as a noise disturbance pursuant to the provisions of this chapter.
The following acts, among others, are declared to be loud, disturbing and unnecessary noises in violation of this chapter, which enumeration shall not deemed to be exclusive:
Horns and signaling devices. The sounding of any horn or signaling device on any automobile, motorcycle or other vehicle on any street or public place of the City, except as a danger warning; the creation by means of any such signaling device of any unreasonably loud or harsh sound; the sounding of any such device for an unnecessary and unreasonable period of time; the use of any signaling device except one operated by hand or electricity; the use of any horn, whistle or other device operated by engine exhaust; and the use of any such signaling device when traffic is for any reason held up. The use of sirens except by authorized emergency vehicles, as defined by this chapter, is prohibited.
Radios, phonographs and similar devices. The using, operating or permitting to be played, used or operated of any radio receiving set, television set, musical instrument, phonograph or other machine or device for the producing or reproducing of sound in such a manner as to disturb the peace, quiet and comfort of the neighboring inhabitants or at any time with louder volume than is necessary for convenient hearing for the person or persons who are voluntary listeners thereto. The operation of any such set, instrument, phonograph, machine or device between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. in such a manner as to be disturbing to a normal person at the property line shall be prima facie evidence of a violation of this subsection.
Yelling and shouting. Yelling, shouting, hooting, whistling or singing on the public streets, particularly between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. or at any time or place so as to annoy or disturb the quiet, comfort or repose of normal persons.
Animals and birds. The keeping of any animal or bird which causes frequent or long-continued sounds which are plainly audible within a noise-sensitive zone or plainly audible at a distance of 50 feet from the lot line of the lot on which it is located.
Defect in vehicle or load. The use of any automobile, motorcycle or vehicle so out of repair, so loaded or in such manner as to create loud and unnecessary grating, grinding, rattling or other noise.
Constructing or repairing of buildings. The erection, including excavating, or the demolition, alteration or repair of any building other than between 7:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m., except in cases of urgent necessity in the interest of public health and safety, and then only with a permit from the Building Commissioner, which may be granted for a period of three days or less while the emergency continues and which permit may be renewed for periods of three days or less while the emergency continues. If the Building Commissioner or his/her designee should determine that the public health and safety will not be impaired by the erection, demolition, alteration or repair of any building or the excavation of streets and highways between the hours of 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m., and if he/she shall further determine that loss or inconvenience would result to any party in interest, he/she may grant permission for the work to be done between the hours of 6:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. upon application being made at the time the permit for the work is awarded or during the progress of the work.
[Amended 8-21-2017 by Ord. No. 2018-4]
Schools, churches and hospitals. The creation of any excessive noise on any street adjacent to any school, institution of learning or church while the same is in use, or adjacent to any hospital, which unreasonably interferes with workings of the institution or which disturbs or unduly annoys patients in a hospital, if conspicuous signs are displayed in such street indicating that the same is a school, church or hospital street.
[Amended 8-21-2017 by Ord. No. 2018-4]
Hawkers and peddlers. The shouting and crying of peddlers, hawkers and vendors which disturbs the peace and quiet of the neighborhood.
Pile drivers and hammers. The operation between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. on weekdays and at any time on Sundays of any pile driver, steam or power shovel, pneumatic hammer, derrick, steam or electric hoist or other appliance, the use of which is attended by loud or unusual noise.
Blowers. The operation of any noise-creating blower or power fan or any internal combustion engine, the operation of which causes noise due to the explosion of operating gases or fluids, unless the noise from such blower or fan is muffled and such engine is equipped with a muffler device sufficient to deaden such a noise.
Loading and unloading. Loading, unloading, closing or handling of boxes, crates, containers, dumpsters, building materials, garbage cans or similar objects between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. the following day on weekdays or between the hours of 10:00 p.m. and 9:00 a.m. the following day when the following day is a Saturday, Sunday or holiday in such a manner that is plainly audible within a noise-sensitive zone.
It shall be unlawful for any person in charge of any store, garage, filling station, apartment house, theater or other premises where persons gather or enter for purposes of amusement or trade within the City, either by his/her own actions or by permitting or allowing any persons who may resort to said premises by day or night, to disturb the neighbors or public peace by:
Loud cries, boisterous songs or the operation of musical machines, instruments or other musical devices, the use of which produces loud music or noises, or making other noises interrupting the peace or quiet of the neighborhood within a radius of 300 feet.
Repairing, rebuilding, modifying or testing any motor vehicle, motorcycle or motorboat in such a manner as to be plainly audible at a distance of 50 feet from the lot line of the lot on which said activity is located.
Operating or permitting the operation of any device that creates vibration which is above the vibration perception threshold of any individual at or beyond the property boundary of the source if on private property or at 50 feet from the source if on a public space or public right-of-way. For the purposes of this subsection, "vibration perception threshold" means the minimum ground- or structure-borne vibration motion necessary to cause a normal person to be aware of the vibration by such direct means as, but not limited to, sensation by touch or visual observation of moving objects.
It shall be unlawful for any person in charge of any store, garage, filling station, apartment house, theater or other premises where persons gather or enter for purposes of amusement or trade within the City, either by his/her own actions or by permitting or allowing any persons who may resort to said premises, to disturb the neighbors or public peace by loud cries, boisterous songs or the operation of musical machines, instruments or other musical devices, the use of which produces loud music or noises, or making other noises interrupting the peace or quiet of the neighborhood at any and all places within the City after the hour of 10:00 p.m. and before the hour of 7:00 a.m.
Noise emanating from lawful and proper activities on school grounds, playgrounds, parks or places wherein athletic contests take place is exempt from the provisions of this chapter during established hours of operation. Special events may be exempted upon issuance of a permit from the Mayor or his/her designee.
Noise emanating from emergency activities involving electric or gas substations, fire stations, police stations, post offices, railroad commuter passenger stations, telephone exchanges, telephone transmission equipment buildings and microwave relay towers, maintenance and equipment storage buildings owned and operated by the City and public works facilities is exempt from the provisions of this chapter.
It shall be unlawful to make, continue or cause to be made or continued any noise in excess of the noise levels set forth in § 164-7 unless such noise is reasonably necessary to the preservation of life, health, safety or property.
Any activity, not expressly exempted by this chapter, which creates or produces sound, regardless of frequency, exceeding the ambient noise levels at the property line of any property or, if a condominium or apartment house, within any adjoining apartment above the ambient noise levels as designated in the following table, at the time and place and for the duration then mentioned, shall be deemed to be a violation of this chapter, but the following enumeration shall not be deemed to be exclusive:
Duration of Sound
7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
(all districts)
6:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.
(residential districts)
6:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m.
(all other districts)
10:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m.
(residential districts)
Less than 10 minutes
75 db
70 db
60 db
Between 10 minutes and 2 hours
70 db
60 db
50 db
In excess of 2 hours
60 db
50 db
40 db
In determining whether a particular sound exceeds the maximum permissible sound level in the table set out in Subsection A:
Sounds in excess of the residential district limitations as measured in a residential district are violative of this section whether the sound originates in a residential district or any other district.
During all hours of Sundays and holidays, the maximum allowable decibel levels for residential districts are as set forth in Column 3 of the table.
Any power lawn mower, power hedge clipper, power saw or such other implement designed primarily for outdoor use shall be operated within the City only between the hours 7:30 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. on weekdays or between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 9:30 p.m. on Saturdays, Sundays and legal holidays; however, such equipment, the operation of which conforms to the maximum allowable sound levels as prescribed in § 164-7, may be operated during the hours otherwise prohibited by this section.
[Amended 9-22-1998 by Ord. No. 96-193A]
A violation of any provision of this chapter shall be punishable by a fine of not more than $50 for a first offense, $100 for a second offense and $150 for each subsequent offense. After the third offense, there shall be no automatic renewal of a municipal license. Each separate occurrence in violation of this chapter shall constitute a separate and distinct offense.
The provisions of this chapter shall be in addition to and shall not disturb either the right of the City, if such, or the right of individuals affected by the violation of this chapter to pursue any other remedy for the abatement of a nuisance or any other remedy which might or could be available under the law.
[Amended 8-21-2017 by Ord. No. 2018-4]
Enforcement personnel shall be the Police Chief, the Building Commissioner, the Director of Public Health and their designees.
As used in this chapter, the following terms shall have the meanings ascribed to them:
The all-encompassing noise associated with a given environment, being either a composite of sounds transmitted by any means from many sources near and far or a single, predominant source.
Any of the following vehicles when equipped and identified according to law:
A vehicle of a Fire Department.
A publicly owned police vehicle or a privately owned vehicle used by a police officer for police work under agreement, express or implied, with the authority to which he/she is responsible.
An ambulance, whether publicly or privately owned.
An emergency vehicle of a City department or a public service corporation.
DECIBEL, db or db(A)
The weighted sound level measured by the use of metering characteristics and the prescribed A-weighting frequency response specified in American National Standards SL. 4. 1971 as established by the American National Standards Institute, Inc.
Any building or structure, or portion thereof, except temporary housing or one wherein a watchman's quarters are the only sleeping accommodations, which is wholly or partly used or intended to be used for living or sleeping by human occupation.
A situation wherein immediate work is necessary to restore property to a safe condition following a public calamity or immediate work is required to protect persons or property from an imminent exposure to danger.
Any motor vehicle having a seat or saddle for the use of the rider and designed to travel on not more than three wheels in contact with the ground, but excluding a tractor.
Any vehicle, motorcycle, machine, tractor, trailer, semitrailer or combination thereof propelled or drawn by mechanical power and used for the transportation of passengers or property or any combination thereof, but does not include a vehicle, locomotive or car operated exclusively on a rail or rails.
One or a group of loud, harsh, nonharmonious sounds or vibrations that are unpleasant and irritating to the ear.
Any traffic light, stop or yield sign, official or police officer.
[Amended 8-21-2017 by Ord. No. 2018-4]
Any district except a commercial, industrial or manufacturing district as defined in Chapter 235, Zoning.
For the purposes of the "Duration of Sound" column in the table in § 164-7, "sound" includes continuous, continual and intermittent sounds transmitted by any means, the interval of silence between which does not exceed 10 seconds.
The intensity of noise is measured in decibels (db). Its measurement is logarithmic, which means that each decibel increase of 10 is a ten-times increase in the level of noise: 130 is 10 times greater than 120, and 130 is 100 times greater than 110.
A guide to the noise intensity:
Thirty decibels is considered very quiet.
Fifty decibels is considered moderately quiet.
Eighty decibels is considered annoying.
One hundred decibels is considered intolerable.
One hundred forty decibels is considered threshold of pain.
One hundred eighty decibels is considered lethal.
Applying the decibel scale to everyday, we find:
Lethal Level
180 Rocket engine
150 Jet plane at takeoff
Pain Threshold
120 Machine gun at close range
120 Pneumatic chipper
115 House party, 4-piece rock band
115 Jet airliner (500 feet overhead)
111 Motorcycle
108 Pneumatic hammer, 6 feet away
107 Power mower
104 Walking near a helicopter
Discomfort and Danger Area
102 Outboard motor
102 Outside, jet taking off at airport
100 Heavy automobile traffic or jet aircraft passing overhead
100 Train stopping in station
100 150-cubic-foot air compressor
98 Farm tractor
96 Pushing a power lawn mower
95 Subway train
95 At a seat in subway, windows open
94 Inside a jet airplane on takeoff
93 Food blender
92 Screaming child
Hearing Damage (Eight hours)
90 Bus idling; heavy city noises
90 Niagara Falls at base; garbage disposal
88 Propeller aircraft flyover at 1,000 feet
86 Sports car running in street
85 Garbage truck 200 feet away
82 Traffic at a residential intersection
Recommended Maximum Noise Level
75 Average traffic
75 Vacuum cleaner; dishwasher
70 Automobile; home air conditioner
60 Conversational speech
55 Window air conditioner
50 Quiet restaurant
45 Homes
40 Quiet office
35 Library
30-40 Refrigerator
30 Whispering
20 Leaves rustling in breeze
20 Broadcasting studio
10 Normal breathing
0 Audibility threshold (level of weakest sound that can be heard by young person with excellent hearing)