By Liz Sheehan
SEA BRIGHT – The Borough Council is working on changing the noise ordinance in the town but has not yet reached a consensus on what changes should be made.
“It’s tough to find a good balance,” Borough Administrator Joseph Verruni said.
When a complaint is made under the present ordinance, violations are determined by the police using decibel measuring devices. These devices can measure music and amplified voices, but they do not register non-amplified voices, Verruni said. Conversations are a frequent source of complaint – especially those of people who congregate around places where liquor is sold.
Verruni said there is no general agreement among council members over what a new ordinance should contain. “We’re really in the formative process of what works best for our town,” he said.
Complaints are not limited to gatherings at commercial establishments, he said. Some complaints have been made by residents who are unhappy overhearing the loud voices of neighbors on decks or porches late in the night.
Under discussion, he said, is a change to the procedure of how complaints are handled. Residents would first call police and, if the police do not decide to file a violation of the ordinance, the resident “takes the next step.” That would mean, Verruni explained, the resident would take the case to municipal court.
Some council members fear that would turn neighbor against neighbor in their small town, Verruni said.
Also being discussed is what time the noise restrictions would go into effect and if they would be adjusted for weekends.
Councilman Kevin Birdsall, who took office in January, said before the election that he was not in favor of a more restrictive noise law and that he was against the discussed noise ordinance that would limit noise levels after 10 p.m. “It’s always been a fun shore town and had the energy of outdoors,” he said.
With a stricter noise law, “The police force would be doing nothing but noise complaints all summer,” he said. The town has a land mass of a little over 1 square mile, with 22 liquor licenses, according to Birdsall.
In regard to complaints about loud talking on porches and yards, Birdsall worried “you could have one uncle who visits you for the weekend, he happens to talk very loud,” and a neighbor has filed a complaint. He feared the situation could pit people against each other like “the Hatfields and McCoys.”
“You don’t want that,” he said. “Talk to your neighbors,” Birdsall counseled.
Birdsall said he wanted to discuss proposals for the new regulations with Councilman Marc Leckstein, who had been researching changes to make to the ordinance. “I just like to get my two cents in,” he said.
Verunni said the council was working towards having the new regulations in place for the summer when the majority of the complaints are made.
“It’s not an easy problem to deal with,” he said.
He said Belmar, Manasquan and Asbury Park had been facing the problem for years.
Complaints about noise aren’t solely from individuals about individuals either. Excessive noise has played a large role in recent applications before the town’s Unified Planning Board.
Residents of the Nautilus, a condominium adjacent to Tommy’s Tavern + Tap are opposing granting the restaurant permission to place a bocce court and corn toss games behind the building, saying the noise generated by the games had been excessive.
There have been several hearings on the application. A continued hearing on the application will be held in March.
A resident tried to block an application to rebuild The Mad Hatter, destroyed by Super Storm Sandy, citing that the new building would generate more noise than the original. The board recently granted the restaurant permission to rebuild, but the matter is being appealed.
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