A new noise ordinance in Jerome goes into effect March 27 after unanimous approval by the town council.
The law is less vague than the current code and in one section specifically applies decibel levels. Police Chief Allen Muma said the language was drawn from similar codes in Prescott and Mesa.
"This is a culmination of at least two years of work," he said.
The ordinance includes the qualifying phrase that noise should not be at such a level "that a reasonable person of normal sensory perception is caused discomfort or annoyance."
Resident Mark Wilson said the wording "leaves the police department in a situation where they have selective enforcement."
Muma said he intends to apply the decibel restrictions on vehicles (82 decibels at less than 35 mph or 86 decibels at more than 35 mph) to music within establishments or residences. A level of discretion is left to the police to decide what is reasonable.
Mayor Jay Kinsella acknowledged "there are people in town who complain about every chirping cricket," but he said he was comfortable with the language of the new ordinance.
"We’ve been dealing with this as an issue since I’ve been mayor," Kinsella said. "We need to define our ordinance … We’re going to have individual who complain no matter what."
Council member Doree Christensen mentioned that at a recent public forum with the police, residents wanted a police department "that is flexible and knows the people."
Muma said the old code is "pretty vague."
"This one is more specific than what we had," said Vice Mayor Jane Moore.
The new code applies to sound from buildings and vehicles. It is illegal to play any "sound device" in a vehicle at a level that can be heard 75 feet away. It is also illegal to noisily work on cars between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.
The ordinance does not limit itself to the activities that is specifically describes.
"I just don’t think we need to have 13 pages of noise ordinance," Muma said.
Penalties include $175 for first offense and $350 for a second offense within six months. Both are deemed civil infractions. A third offense becomes a Class 1 misdemeanor and carries a $2,500 fine and/or 180 days in jail.
Muma asked the council to approve the ordinance and suggested that if there are enforcement problems, further changes can be made in the future.
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