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Published: Wednesday, 8/11/2010

Sylvania Twp. trustees weigh punctuating noise resolution

BY DAVID PATCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Sylvania Township officials are considering adding specifics to the township's noise resolution, with the intent to make it more enforceable.

But during a township trustees' meeting last week, they conceded they may have a hard time using even a detailed noise law to crack down on motorcyclists and hot-rod drivers who aggravate residents like Julie Thompson by racing up and down township streets at night.

"It's going on every night until 3:30 a.m.," Ms. Thompson said of the racing and engine revving on Central and Sylvania avenues, which she can hear from her home on Sylvan Wood Drive.

"I can hear them a mile away, revving their engines at the stoplights. And it's like a free-for-all as far as speed goes."

Trustee John Jennewine agreed, saying he hears the noise from his home on Sylvania, and suggested that stepped-up traffic stops could be a deterrent.

"From 11 p.m. to 6 a.m., it's extremely upsetting," he said.

Township Police Chief Robert Metzger and trustee Chairman Carol Contrada cautioned, however, that even if the township establishes a measurable noise standard to enforce, proving violations will be difficult.

"Because of the decibel-meter requirements and the training required, it's not an easy thing to do," the police chief said.

He noted that proof of vehicular violations is especially difficult because violators rarely stick around long enough to be measured.

Mrs. Contrada said even decibel-meter readings are often contested in court.

And she added that evidence rarely stands up because of lack of proof that the meters were properly calibrated.

"And right now, our noise ordinance doesn't define what is too loud, by decibels and distance," she said.

Current township law forbids "any loud, unnecessary, or unusual noise or noises of such character, intensity, or duration that annoy, disturb, or endanger the peace, health, comfort, safety, or repose of reasonable persons of ordinary sensibilities at such volume which is plainly audible at a distance of 150 feet or more from the source of the noise or sound."

The noise resolution, ad-opted under Ohio law, goes on to list specific examples of vehicular noise, barking dogs, or other animal sources, or loud music or other amplified sound that would constitute violations, while exempting emergency vehicles, certain sporting events, or other activities that have obtained waivers from township officials. Violations are punishable with fines of up to $1,000.

Mrs. Contrada said the proposal to include measurable standards in the noise resolution was inspired primarily by complaints about loud music and parties, including concerts at Centennial Terrace and music at the Village Inn tavern.

Although sources of noise like those can be addressed with a decibel meter, Chief Metzger said, "there's a lot of effort in setting it up."

Such meters are difficult to calibrate and vulnerable to heat or cold, so whenever one were to be used to investigate a noise complaint, it would have to be brought from the township police station, he said. That makes them virtually worthless to pursue vehicular noise complaints, since offenders aren't stationary.

More discussion is anticipated during the township board's meeting Aug. 17.



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